Grown-Up Kids and Caregiving


caregivingTaking on the role of caregiving can be especially tough for adult children. Its magnified when grown up siblings suddenly converge on the scene and dealing with the emotional issues becomes paramount.  It's tough to focus on the patient - your aging and ill senior parent - when family members are stuck repeating childhood conflicts and having those conflicts turn into a war on how to best care for Mom and Dad.

For help on sidelining sibling rivalry on the caregiving front, I asked Kevin O'Connor, a counselor and educator at Loyola University in Chicago for help. Here are 10 tips for creating a caring community of siblings:

Set Expectations. Create a list of priorities about what needs to be done. What does your parent need right away? Financial help? A companion for doctor's visits? When you decide what needs to be done, you help each family member decide when and where to act.

Be Respectful. Even if your sister and you do not normally get along, be respectful and listen to her point of view. Kill 'em with kindness" does work.

Seek help. Hospitals and medical institutions over myriad resources for families including social workers and chaplain services. Also, a hospital chapel or meditation room is a good place to take a break from the action.

Hold family meetings. Schedule regular family meetings to share news, progress, make decisions and keep everyone in the loop.

Encourage others. Use sentences like "What I like best," "What I notice about," "It was helpful when," and "I especially appreciate." They help us focus on what our sibling is doing right and conveys that to them as well.

Focus on progress. It's easy to focus on the mounting stresses, the treks to ER, the relapses, the new diagnoses. But special moments also emerge in the adversity of illness. Pay attention to the progress:  Dad is out of bed and walking in the hospital halls.

Outsource disagreements. Hospital social workers, counselors or a pastor can help you get through these challenging times. You don't have to carry the burden all alone. Your sibling may never change, but you need support to get through dealing with him so you can help Mom or Dad get through their illness and suffering.

Create one-on-one time.  Take your brother or sister out to dinner, or slip away from the hospital for coffee, or a walk.

Call on hospice. Reach out for help through the hospice, ministry of care and respite services that may be available. These services not only help our elderly parent, they help us deal with the illness and give us time to take a break and get some rest. When we are better off, our parents are better off.

Celebrate. When my father was in hospice and near his final days, we brought in pictures, music and movies and spent a lot of time sharing memories. My father's last night was a celebration for him - and for all of us.

What tips do you have for easing the grown-up sibling rivalry when caring for our elderly parents? Please post a comment and don't forget to sign up for our RSS Feed.

--Mary Beth Sammons