How Can We Come Together to Take Care of Dad?
"I am one of five siblings with an 89-year-old father who lives in an apartment alone. We all live within about ten miles of him, which is so nice for the family.
As time marches on, Dad requires more assistance from us children. He stopped driving just recently, so getting places requires some planning. He also is not that good at laundry and cleaning. I think it’s just become a bit difficult for him. He was better a few years ago.
What I wonder is how to determine who does what and how to get everyone involved equally. As the oldest, I feel some level of responsibility to organize the team. What would be the best way to approach the topic with my siblings?"
Caring for parents is the easiest when you function together. As with any team, players have individual strengths and deficits. Recognize that you will be the most successful if you play to strengths. By that, I mean that not all your siblings may be good at cleaning, or finance, or love to drive around. As adults, we all handle the activities of daily living, but each of us enjoys some tasks more than others.
Since you feel responsible to organize the gang, then you may be the best one to lead the charge. Bring your siblings together in person, on a conference call, or for an online virtual visit. I do recommend that you see each other when you meet. You need everyone focused and alert to make decisions. As the self-appointed leader, go ahead and initiate this meeting. Let your siblings know that you’re bringing them together to find out how to best support your father now and in the future.
I advise keeping the meeting lighthearted and not too long. Beforehand, create a list of the tasks your father needs assistance with, and the approximate time commitment for each. The time matters, as each of you needs to see how much effort the various tasks require. This will help you create an equitable distribution of responsibilities. Recognize that the distribution will not be perfectly equal. What is most important is that everyone participates. Caregiving is best done as a group. It will keep any one person from becoming worn out and resentful.
Encourage everyone to self-select what they believe their strengths to be and what they can fit into their routine. Avoid being the martyr and taking on everything labor-intensive or time-consuming. Just because you’re the oldest doesn’t mean you’re required to carry the heaviest load.
Assign someone to record the list. Then have someone forward copies to the group, including your father. That way, the commitment is in writing, and your father knows what’s going on.
Ideally, you schedule a follow-up call or meeting in one month to see how it’s going for everyone. Since you are all so close, maybe you meet at someone’s house for a cocktail, or at the local pub. Keep it light and team oriented. This is only the beginning of your journey. The more like a team you function in the beginning, the easier it will be along the way.
I wish you a satisfying journey.
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