Many caregivers ask how to respond to siblings who, after being directly and distinctly asked for help, either skirt responsibility with excuses or become outright nasty if they are asked for assistance in a direct manner. Let's look at a few examples and contemplate responses. These can, perhaps, trigger ideas about how to handle your unique circumstances:
Summer is a time when it’s generally easier for elders to be out and about than when snow and ice are an issue. Even if our loved ones have dementia, severe arthritis, lung issues or a combination of ailments, there are things we, their caregivers, can do to relieve a sense of being left out of life that can affect people in their situation.
Think about the personality of your ailing elders and consider excursions or entertainment that they may enjoy. A short outing of some type can leave a lasting memory, or it can simply mean that there were some enjoyable moments, but either way, you’ve done something positive for them. Remember to take into account the fact that heat can be dangerous to elders, so prepare for outside activities by educating yourself about how to keep elders safe in the heat.
Dear Readers: For most people, finding out that they have received an inheritance is a positive experience. Not so when that inheritance is early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease (eFAD). This type of inheritance involves a gene which each family member has a 50 percent chance of inheriting. For those who inherit this gene, their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by middle age, if not younger, is 100 percent. In her engrossing new book “The Inheritance,” Niki Kapsambelis presents the story of a North Dakota family facing such a reality.
An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol Bradley Bursack also has an excellent website devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman
Dear Carol: I’m 69-years-old and widowed. My76-year-old single sister has advanced osteoporosis, inflammatory arthritis, and lung disease. I cared for her in my home for over seven years. My health is deteriorating and my doctor has warned me that, if I don’t change my caregiving situation, I’m in for big health issues. My sister said that she understood, so six months ago she moved into a nursing home. The facility is lovely and the staff is great. The staff members have told me that she has made friends and, considering her health, does very well. When I observe her, I see that she’s great with others, but her attitude toward me has changed. I visit daily and bring her everything she wants, but she piles guilt on me and complains about her life. Now, I have a chance to take a week-long trip with a friend to a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I told my sister about this opportunity and she’s pouting. She says to go but then acts hurt. Her caregivers tell me that she’ll be just fine. I want to take this trip. It's finally a chance for some real fun, but how do I enjoy it under these circumstances? TR
Researchers in the United Kingdom have found that elderly people are more likely to be moved into a care home after spending time with their families over the Christmas holiday than at any other time. The reason? Families who live at a distance tend to spend a longer time with their elders during the holidays. After a few days together, adult children notice issues with their parents’ physical or mental health that may not have been obvious during shorter visits or from telephone conversations. Some of these changes are thought to be due to chronic loneliness which can sometimes be alleviated through more in-home personal care. In other cases, the opportunity to socialize in a care home may be better fit.
Caregivers often find that many of their superficial friends drift away over time because the caregiver is too busy to have fun. These friends are not bad people. They simply don't know what to do to help the caregiver and they find it easier to share their time with people whose lives are less complicated. Are you this kind of friend?
It’s difficult to watch our parents age. As their hair grays, wrinkles form and age spots multiply, we adult children can find ourselves feeling protective. We want to keep them healthy. We want to know that they are safely at home when there’s the slightest risk of bad weather. We don’t want them taking risks that could result in an injury. That’s love, after all, and parents appreciate being loved. It’s a mistake, however, to make yourself director of your parents’ lives simply because they are piling on years.
If you are just a casual friend to the caregiver, perhaps it's best to remain that way. Still, some of you really care about your caregiving friend and want to help, but you don't know how. The following tips may give your some insight into what you can do to help your friend as he or she takes care of their elderly loved one. (Remember to take this as general advice since every caregiver and every care situation is unique.)
Issues between brothers and sisters often seem to come to a head when a parent suddenly needs care. While siblings who have always had a healthy relationship generally find ways to work through their disagreements, many who never truly got along can find themselves frustrated, hurt and even completely estranged from one another in the end. In either scenario, objective, professional advice can be helpful for those families who are working towards conflict resolution at a time when everyone should be cooperating.
It’s been nearly a decade since I began sharing my personal caregiving stories with the public, first via the book “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories” and later through a newspaper column, on my own blog and then contributing to major websites such as Healthcentral.com/alzheimers. When I first started sharing my stories and looking for others who had similar tales to tell, people tended to be reticent about speaking up. Now, sharing caregiver “in the trenches” stories has become a major part of caregiver self-care and even survival.