Family eldercare planning: Gathered around a dinner table, talk with parents and siblings about what parents want/need, and how to help.

The best conversations happen in informal settings, where elders share their wants/needs, and children find ways to help.

Author: Anne Bogardus, Founder (and former caregiver to Bob and Kit)

Caring for aging parents is a journey filled with love, challenges, and profound change. It’s a journey many family caregivers find themselves on unexpectedly, often without a roadmap.

Eldercare is Often Unexpected

While it would be ideal to have everything planned well in advance, the reality is that many families are thrust into caregiving roles suddenly, due to a medical emergency or an accident. On top of the stress caused by the urgent need to support your elder, many families are unprepared for the practical needs of the situation going forward–in fact, they may not be aware of on-going daily tasks that need to be done, like paying bills or caring for a pet. The purpose of this guide is to give you some basic tools to help you navigate this journey with compassion, practical advice, and a feeling of confidence.

Recognizing When Eldercare is Needed

One of the first signs that eldercare may be on your horizon is noticing that things are not quite right with mom and/or dad. Often, this realization comes gradually. Parents might be in denial about their need for help, or they might cover for each other to maintain a sense of independence. This is perfectly natural; after all, they’ve spent a lifetime taking care of themselves and their families.

Understanding how to know elderly family members need help is the first crucial step in the caregiving journey. For more details on this, checkout this post.

The Blessing of Preparation

In our family, we were fortunate that our parents initiated important conversations about their wishes long before we had to step in as caregivers. Shortly after my dad retired, they took care of essential paperwork and had a family meeting to discuss their end-of-life wishes, living wills, and advanced directives. This foresight was a tremendous blessing for us.

However, when the time came to provide ongoing support, we faced resistance. It seemed that making decisions and preparing paperwork was an entirely different prospect than actually admitting they needed it. Amusingly, whenever one of us brought up the idea that they needed help, Mom always said Dad needed help, but she was just fine, while Dad insisted Mom needed help but he was good.

This resulted in a series of crises before they were willing to accept our assistance.

Four Essential Steps for Family Caregivers

As my siblings and I stumbled through our caregiving journey, we discovered four critical steps that helped us manage the transition and provide the best care for our parents.

Step 1: Have Open Conversations with Your Parents

Talking to your parents about their needs and your concerns is a delicate but essential first step. Remember, they may fear that admitting they need help will mean losing their independence. Approach these conversations with empathy and respect, acknowledging their desire to make their own decisions. Keep in mind that sometimes, parents will only accept help after a crisis. Be patient and persistent, and make sure they know you are there to support them, not to take over their lives.

Step 2: Assess Your Schedule and Commitments

Becoming a family caregiver will impact your life in ways you might not anticipate. Take a realistic look at your current responsibilities and how caregiving will fit into them. You might need to prioritize and let go of some activities. Keep in mind that while caring for elderly family members is important, it’s equally important to maintain balance with time for yourself and your immediate family. Remember that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to pace yourself to avoid burnout.

Step 3: Organize Important Documents and Financial Information

Having all necessary documents organized is vital for managing your parents’ affairs. Even if your parents were proactive, you might still need to sort through a lot of paperwork. Important documents include wills, insurance policies, bank statements, and medical records. Having these readily accessible can save you significant stress and ensure you can make informed decisions quickly.

Step 4: Communicate with Your Siblings

Eldercare can strain family relationships, especially if siblings have different perceptions of their parents’ needs. Open, honest communication is key to navigating these dynamics. Understand where each sibling stands and be prepared for disagreements. Establishing a united front is crucial for providing consistent care and support for your parents.

Benefits of Being a Prepared Family Caregiver

  1. Peace of Mind: Knowing that you are prepared and organized can reduce stress and anxiety.
  2. Better Decision-Making: Clear communication and documentation help in making informed choices.
  3. Stronger Family Bonds: Working together can strengthen relationships among siblings and with your parents.
  4. Effective Time Management: Prioritizing and organizing your tasks helps balance caregiving with personal life.
  5. Emotional Resilience: Being prepared helps you handle crises more calmly and effectively.

 

Moving Forward: Continuing the Journey

These four steps are just the beginning. As you continue your caregiving journey, you’ll encounter new challenges and learn more about what works best for your family. The key is to remain flexible, compassionate, and proactive.

Caring for elderly parents is a demanding but profoundly rewarding role. By taking these steps, you can ensure that you are well-prepared to provide the best possible care for your loved ones, while also taking care of yourself. Remember, you are not alone on this journey—there are resources, communities, and experts ready to support you every step of the way.

Resources for Family Caregivers

By staying informed and connected, you can navigate the complexities of eldercare with confidence and compassion. Together, we can build a supportive community where family caregivers thrive and our elderly loved ones receive the care and respect they deserve.

Want to Stay Informed On New Eldercare Developments?

There’s an ever-growing body of knowledge about family eldercare, and accessing it has never been easier. When I typed “aging parents” into Google a few minutes ago, it returned

360 MILLION results.

Yikes! Who has time to sort through all of that information to find exactly what will help your family situation? As a former 24/7/365 caregiver for my elderly parents, I can confidently say–not any caregiver I know!

When you don’t have the time, but want to stay informed, consider subscribing to the Family Caregiver Resource Center weekly newsletter, Eldercare Chronicles. In it, I curate relevant, actionable information and articles about caring for aging parents that can help you in your eldercare journey. This includes:

  • A link to the latest blog post on Family Caregiver Resource Center
    • Each post is based on common questions and concerns I hear from caregivers.
  • A synopsis and link to an article about new developments in eldercare, and
  • An introduction to eldercare experts who provide actionable, relevant articles or videos specifically for family caregivers.

The newsletter is free and comes just once each week–I don’t believe in cluttering your mailbox–I hate when that happens to me!

Interested? You can sign up here. Would love for you to be part of this new community of concerned,  committed women caring for their elderly family members with compassion and grace, for themselves and all those around them.

 

 

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