This guest posting is a personal story from one of our community members.
My grandmother, Joan’s move into an assisted living facility was one of many changes for my mom and her siblings. Joan was happy to decorate a new space without a yard, but she was no longer driving and had frequent doctor visits. Insurance policies and savings had to be considered, and in time she turned over Power of Attorney to my mom.
Guilt and fear accompanied these responsibilities and stressed family relationships. Like mindedness can be tough on unimportant issues, and opinions run deeper when the stakes increase. My mom, aunt and uncle worked to navigate these changes together, sometimes with more grace than others. They chose how to juggle their own families and relationship to Joan. I wonder how my siblings and I will handle ourselves when it’s our turn.
My grandmother was one of my best friends. We took road trips, watched movies and talked endlessly about decorating. And life. “Travel the world” she said. “And marry a man who loves you a little bit more than you love him.” She knew what it meant to take care of others and herself. Joan loved a good book and time with those she loved. I learned a lot from her about setting boundaries, asking for help, and embracing change.
I’d like to think my siblings and I will “divide and conquer” our parents’ needs, though statistics show that only 10% of caregivers have an equal division of labor. My Mom’s role reflected the AARP studies, in which 17% reported the responsibility had taken a toll on their health, and 31% depicted it as emotionally stressful. Two-thirds of those with jobs said they had gone to work late, left early or taken time off, and 15% said they had made significant financial sacrifices. Researchers agree that open communication and well thought out plans can help maintain healthy relationships during these periods of change.
Getting Started: The Plan
Advisers recommend starting with a plan. Below are some checklists and resources to help in the process.
General Planning and Organization:
- Designate a central place for the paperwork, communications and schedules: consider www.generationsunite.com or www.caregiverhelper.com to keep far flung relatives up to date on medical records and accounting documents. Also www.carecentral.com is a caregiving social network, with the ability to post photos, invite others and ask for help.
- Keep positive communication in mind. Avoid Dr. Gottman’s relationship havoc makers: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.Learn to make specific complaints & requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want Z) Express appreciation for others, claim responsibility, and treat others as you would like them to respond.
- List financial resources and available insurance options.
- Investigate Assisted Living Centers, their amenities, staff and services.
- Plan for a Health Care Power of Attorney to appoint someone to make health care decisions.
- Have a Living Will completed to describe future treatment decisions in case a loved one is unable to do so.
- Have a Durable Power of Attorney set up to manage assets.
- Review property ownership and ways to maintain and protect it.
- Form a will and or trust documents
- Organize a plan to protect assets
- Review Social Security records for accuracy.
- Check credit history for needed corrections or obligations.
- Discuss health and life insurance options
- Consider long term care insurance options.
- Review Mom or Dad’s hygiene/personal care needs and see what help is needed.
- Review the plan together or with a friend: decide who should handle which responsibilities. If communication breaks down, consider hiring a care manager http://caremanager.org/ or a mediator who specializes in geriatrics www.mediate.com or see a family therapist.