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Published By Right at Home Winnipeg on February 22, 2019

Caregiving is a team sport. Sharing the responsibility of caring for an elderly relative can bring families closer together and make it easier on everyone.


Unfortunately, negotiating family caregiving responsibilities can be a challenge in and of itself. Below, we outline the most common pitfalls families encounter when it comes to negotiating family caregiving responsibilities. Knowing how to avoid them will make the process easier for you and your loved ones. 


Pitfall 1: Waiting Too Long to Start the Conversation 

The first mistake? Leaving the caregiving conversation to the last minute.


Caregiving is a sensitive subject at the best of times. It requires family members to weigh options and contemplate an uncertain future. What’s worse is having that conversation while your loved one is in the midst of a health crisis. 


Don’t make assumptions about who will take on what role when the time comes. When you begin to notice signs your loved one needs care, it’s time to sit down and discuss caregiving responsibilities with your family. 


Pitfall 2: Having Too Many Voices (or Too Few) 

Who should you involve in negotiating family caregiving responsibilities? The answer will be different depending on each family’s dynamics. 


Some will seek the input of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandkids, or even close friends. Others feel that only immediate family should weigh in on caregiving responsibilities. 


Chances are, you’ll know in your heart who should have a voice in the discussion. It’s important not to leave those people out. At the same time, there is such a thing as having too many seats at the table. 


When it comes to big questions, like who will act as primary caregiver, it is often better to start the conversation with just the senior’s spouse and children. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you can fold in other family members to talk specifics. 


Pitfall 3: Not Having a Plan B 

What will you do if the primary caregiver gets sick? What if the person who shoulders the bulk of the expense gets laid off? What happens if a semi-independent senior can no longer live by themselves? 


A change in circumstance may require re-negotiating caregiving responsibilities down the road. Some changes you can plan for, like the degenerative effects of a dementia diagnosis. Others come out of the blue and require more flexibility. 


Part of the caregiving conversation should involve tackling ‘what ifs’ that could necessitate a change of course. You can’t anticipate every possible outcome but failing to do any contingency planning is a big mistake. 


Caregiving is an ongoing dialogue. Remember that your loved one’s capabilities and needs will change, and that a caregiver’s life can change, too. 


Pitfall 4: Trying to Divide Responsibilities Equally 

We often view the ideal caregiving situation as one where everyone has an equal voice and an equal share of the responsibilities. But that’s not how it usually plays out. 


In reality, some relatives live too far away to take an active role as a caregiver. Not everyone can afford to make an equal contribution financially. The senior’s children have competing responsibilities to their own children, spouse, and career. And some family members just plain don’t get along well enough to work together. 


You should negotiate caregiving responsibilities based on availability, skills, and common sense. For example, siblings can take turns grocery shopping or driving the senior to and from daily activities. Grandkids can help out with the laundry twice a week. Faraway relatives can help manage financial or legal affairs or be a liaison with the rest of the family abroad. 


It’s inevitable that some will put in more time and effort than others. But you can’t let this be a point of resentment. The important thing is for the senior to get the care they need, and for families to have an open discussion about how each person can support the primary caregivers in this effort. 


Pitfall 5: Letting Family Issues Boil Over 

Every family has its history, conflicts, and characters. Sometimes, old disagreements can resurface while negotiating family caregiving responsibilities, complicating and distracting from the matter at hand. 


Letting old family battles overshadow the caregiving conversation is a mistake. But so is ignoring a problem that’s clearly bubbling beneath the surface. When it comes to deciding the future of a loved one’s care, the participants should acknowledge their issues and either agree to work through them or set them aside for the sake of their loved one. 


Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some families benefit from having a neutral observer, like a social worker or mediator, sit in on the discussion. A third party can give a clear view on what care the senior needs and how each person can contribute. 


Negotiating Family Caregiving Responsibilities 

Every family is different, and each one finds their solution for how to negotiate and share the responsibilities of caring for an elderly loved one. Do you have a word of advice for families who are having this conversation? Reach out to us on Facebook. 


For more information on in-home senior care, feel free to contact us at Right at Home Winnipeg. 

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