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Podcast 12: Reducing Caregiver Stress & Family Friction

Locking horns with a family member about an aging parent’s care? It can make an already stressful situation that much worse. Family dynamics, disagreement, and old wounds can make the process of caring for an ailing parent very complicated between family members, especially siblings.

This episode focuses reducing friction and caregiver stress between family members for the good of the cause by examining caregiver equity, putting aside differences and gaining new perspectives. Listen to the Coach’s Corner podcast and check out some the additional resources to make caregiving a little less stressful and more manageable.

Click here to listen to Episode 12

Additional resources to check out:

“What to Do about Mama?” by Barbara Matthews & Barbara Trainin Blank, published by Sunbury Press
www.amazon.com/What-Do-about-Mam…ers/dp/1620063158


“The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer ’s Disease, Related Dementia and Memory Loss” by Nancy Mace M.A and Peter Rabins, M.D. M.P.H. published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.
www.amazon.com/36-Hour-Day-Alzhe…ias/dp/1455521159


Or visit the Family Caregiver Alliance at www.caregiver.org

Caregiving and Curbing Sibling Discord

Serving as a caregiver for an ailing parent or parents can be extremely challenging. It can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. One of the first suggestions or ideal situations as a caregiver is to share the responsibility. Naturally much of this starts with the adult children, especially if both parents need assistance, or the spouse has their own health issues to deal with or has passed away.

As a parent’s health begins to fail, you’d hope all the kids would rally around mom or dad and work in harmony to reciprocate the care in this common reversal of caregiving roles. But not all that surprising, family dynamics, disagreement, and old wounds can make this process very complicated and typically results in one of the kids becoming the primary caregiver. This can create resentment and even more conflict between family members as the burden grows.

Caregiving Equity

Innocently enough, some siblings cannot offer as much help simply due to geography or their own family dynamics. If mom lives down the street from you, but lives 300 miles from your brother, let’s face it – there’s going to be some caregiving inequity. Work schedules, retirement, personal health issues, and dependent children can also create disparity among sibling caregivers. Although, there are solutions to alleviate some of these issues which you will see below.

Less excusable is the exaggeration of some of the above obstacles or the occasionally uttered excuse of, “well dad liked you best, so he’d rather you take care of him” or “I’ll do my part,” then they disappear or gradually minimize their efforts.

Lastly, are the inexcusable reasons for not partaking in the caregiving effort, such as simply turning a blind eye or a purposeful absence due to a held over grudge or poor relationship with siblings or that parent. But some old wounds can run very deep, and estrangement is sometimes irreversible.

Putting Differences Aside and Gaining Perspective

Whatever the reason the family dysfunction exists, I think most can and must get beyond these obstacles. Open communication and planning are essential. Full disclosure: my older brother and I are not very close. We communicate very infrequently. But there have been some recent instances where we needed to talk for the sake and well-being of our parents. If we could do this, most people can. The point where your parent is in need is not the time for conflict or jockeying of control. If things escalate, here are some suggestions to share the load.

• Call a family meeting – Include everyone to discuss the situation to work toward a common goal, especially for out-of-town siblings. Help them understand the need for care and intervention, as they may not be able to detect nor accept reality from so far away.

• Draft a care plan – The plan should be a well-balanced with well-defined roles. Divide up tasks by family member. For instance, if one sibling works in health care, they could take on all of the medical appointments. Or the person with good business sense might handle legal issues and/or financial issues. Furthermore, much of this can be done from afar and is a great tactic to keep siblings, who live far away, doing their fair share. They can also pay for services like home care or housekeeping services to help out. They could also host or come stay with mom every few months to take over and give others a break. Lastly, have everyone sign the plan to maintain accountability and keep everyone on task. That plan could also include placement options for further on down the line when living at home is no longer safe or feasible.

• Utilize technology and outside resources – Fall-detection and home-monitoring and video systems can create and maintain a safer home environment to make caregiving more efficient and less time consuming. Also hired services, like non-medical home care, respite care, and adult day programs can help alleviate the burden of care between family members.

 • Listen to each other and stay flexible – Maintain lines of communication. Appreciate everyone’s perspective along with their position and capacity of being a caregiver, and remember circumstances may change and alter the division of labor. And once again, don’t expect total equality. It’s very rare that caregiving roles can be divided equally.

“Try to separate your parent’s needs from your own—and yesterday’s battles from today’s decisions” – Family Caregiver Alliance

 • Lastly, remember why you’re doing it – Caregiving can be frustrating and contentious at times, especially if you feel that some else is not doing their part. But ultimately, you must work together to take care of the person or persons that took care of you for all those years.

For more help, call 717.591.7225 or email Coach@MessiahLifeways.org or check out the following resources:

“What to Do about Mama?” by Barbara Matthews & Barbara Trainin Blank, published by Sunbury Press

“The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer ’s Disease, Related Dementia and Memory Loss” by Nancy Mace M.A and Peter Rabins, M.D. M.P.H. published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Or visit the Family Caregiver Alliance at www.caregiver.org


This article first appeared in the August 2017 edition of Blue Mountain Living Magazine.

 

Everyone is a Potential Caregiver

The Joy and Pain of Caregiving

Serving as a caregiver for an aging loved one or parent is an incredible act. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the U.S., there are as many as 44 million¹ unpaid caregivers performing these incredible acts every day for someone over the age of 50. That is a huge mass of people serving the needs of an ailing spouse or loved one, where you will find lots of heartwarming, courageous and selfless caregiving stories. You’ll also hear stories of burnout, frustration and despair. Anyone who’s served as a caregiver for a significant amount of time can tell you that it can be wonderful yet woeful, and joyous and painful all at once. It’s assuming a lot of responsibility, which can be unfamiliar and often uncomfortable from handling their finances to helping a parent bathe or get dressed. It’s also a time to discover your own altruism or rekindle the bond between parent and child or between a husband and wife.

I’ve connected with hundreds of caregivers throughout my career including family, friends, but mostly through experiences at work. They hold a special place in my heart. Several years ago I helped develop a workshop created to help caregivers who were stressed and overwhelmed. The goal was to help this constant cycle of individuals avoid burnout and find options and resources to make the task of caregiving for an older adult easier and more manageable.

Everyone Is a Potential Caregiver

In the book “What to Do about Mama?” authors Barb Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank exclaim, “Everyone is a potential caregiver.” So whether you have, are or will be a caregiver at some point in your life you can expect the highs and lows of this process. As you begin to read articles or books like “What to Do about Mama” you begin to see patterns and statistics that paint a very taxing picture. Over two-thirds of caregivers are women, many of whom are in the “sandwich generation,” which means they are caring for a parent or loved one while simultaneously caring for their children. Caregiver.org also states that anywhere from 40-70%² of caregivers suffer from various stages of depression. It also takes its toll on physical health, relationships, and work. Juggling all this can lead to burnout.

However, there is hope. There are a multitude of books, online resources and workshops like the one Messiah Lifeways Coaching offers to help caregivers avoid burnout. One of the most fundamental tools to elude burning out is taking care of YOU. Simply put – you cannot care for someone else if you yourself are ailing or worse. The comparison is often made to being on an airplane, and oxygen masks descend during an emergency. The rule is to place your oxygen mask on first and then assist those who need help. It’s a simple concept, but quite often forgotten.

Another important choice is seeking and accepting help from others. So often, women especially, think they can run all of mom’s errands, provide her the care she needs and drop in all hours of the day without the help of anyone else. It’s noble, but can be quite foolish as well. Ask others for help or hire help, plus take people up on their offers to help because eventually they may stop asking.

Caregiver support groups are also a very valuable asset in the effort of avoiding feeling overwhelmed, depressed or inadequate. They serve as great outlets to gain support from those who know what you’re going through. It’s a time to share, laugh and cry, to console, validate and commiserate. Jeanne McClintick RN, CHLPN from Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, runs several local caregiver support groups and shares wonderful supportive stories between members. She also states many participants continue to attend these groups even after the person they care for passes. It’s a way for them to heal and to help others new to the caregiving arena. So whether you chose to be or are thrust into the position of caregiver, do not take it lightly; however, do not fret. Remembering some of these tips along with other resources and insight can make it a better situation for all involved.

For more caregiver support and resources read “What to Do about Mama?” or visit cargiver.org or alz.org. If you’d like to attend The Caregiver Solutions Workshop on September 22, 2015 at the Carlisle Brethren in Christ Church, call 717.591.7225 or go to MessiahLifeways.org/Events.

¹Alzheimer’s Association, 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Vol.7, Issue 2.] – Updated: November 2012
²Zarit, S. (2006) Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective in Family Caregiver Alliance (Eds.), Caregiver Assessment: Voices and Views from the Field. Report from a National Consensus Development Conference (Vol. II) (pp. 12-37). San Francisco: Family Caregiver Alliance.] – Updated: November 2012

”What to Do about Mama”- Book Review

Everyone is a potential caregiver – BGM & BTB

We have not done a book review in quite a while on the blog page. However, What to Do about Mama is categorically worth the read. It should not only capture the attention of previous and current caregivers, but it can also provide a potential glimpse into the future for nearly all of us. As the book states, “everyone is a potential caregiver” either for an aging parent, spouse, sibling as well as a disabled child, client, friend, or neighbor. The role of caregiver could be as short as a few weeks or for others it could last decades. Nonetheless, very few of us will ever be devoid of this altruistic and challenging role.

Co-authors Barbara G. Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank open their hearts and bear their souls to share their challenging, heart wrenching, and insightful journeys as caregivers. Their personal stories, along with a host of other caregiving contributors, give detailed perspective on this physical, mental, and emotional roller coaster that it entails. Readers should heed the warning of how expectations, sharing responsibility, and the relationship between other family members can really deteriorate and/or shift. Furthermore, it highlights many of the unexpected realities of caregiving such as dealing with financial, legal, and medical issues of the care recipient.

Affirmation is also a big part of this book, particularly for those who served as a caregiver in the past. The relatable experiences can provide some absolution from the feelings of guilt, resentment, or remorse while “in the trenches.” If someone felt inadequate or felt guilty, What to Do about Mama shows that they are human and they should be proud of the job they did. For some of the contributors, I think the book was also a way to get those negative feelings off their chest without feeling judged. It helped them move beyond those difficult memories and to remember more of the joyful ones spent with their loved one.

For current caregivers, this is must read. As the authors express, this is not a caregiving textbook, and it is not written by “caregiving experts” but rather a guide featuring a collection of experiences and insights for caregivers by caregivers. It provides real world scenarios, anecdotes, and support to those in the position of caregiver. It tells the tale of what to do, what not to do, what did or didn’t work for them or what could work for you. They also reference funding sources as well as other resources to help your loved one age in place.

Lastly, the book also goes beyond caregiving in the here and now. It examines the residual effects of caregiving even after the loved one has passed, including the emotional aspect, relationships between survivors, and some of the legal and financial issues that can linger.

I recommend What to Do about Mama for anyone faced with the sometimes rewarding and sometimes unenviable task of caregiving for which most of us will encounter at some point in our lives. If you would like to learn more about this book as well as other resources to help caregivers manage and embrace the role along with avoiding caregiver burnout, please call the Messiah Lifeways Coaching office at 717.591.7225 or email coach@messiahlifeways.org.