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5 Caregiving tips for working with family: The good, the bad and the neutral

By Rick Lauber

It’s true that caregivers often benefit from outside assistance, but is it the best idea to ask for help from your own family? Before approaching a sister, brother or other relative for help, consider the following pros and cons.

The good…

Instills confidence: Handling the ongoing responsibilities of caregiving can be difficult. But managing these tasks successfully and making good decisions can boost your ego and it can build trust between you and your family members. In addition, the “I can do this” mentality can influence your thoughts and actions outside of caregiving.

Builds bonds: Working together can bring siblings closer. My sisters and I worked quite well as a team. I also found that my father’s Alzheimer’s disease improved my relationship with him. Dad, always a very private man, didn’t readily share his thoughts and feelings with me. I thank Alzheimer’s disease for knocking down the protective walls he’d built. Dad actually showed his gentle character and a previously unrealized affection for hugs.

After all, happiness and personal satisfaction
are not goals, but by-products of a life well-lived.

Eleanor Roosevelt

The bad…

Increases stress: Stress is a popular term when it comes to caregiving, and rightly so. You will be watching and grieving your loved one’s decline. Demands will come at you from all angles. You may be asked to do things that you had never imagined. Stress can negatively affect your own family, career, sleep patterns, patience levels and more.

Creates animosity: Disagreements between siblings can become heated. Siblings may not always agree on the best path for Mom/Dad, what level of care to provide, and when and how far to step in. Family arguments can also start (and carry on) over caregiving finances and impending inheritances, and old grievances can resurface.

The neutral…

Reduces expense: I’ve listed this as a “neutral” tip as money matters may or may not be a problem. Some seniors will have a sizable nest egg to continue paying both regular bills and the extra expenses of additional care. Even if this is the case, however, all may not go as planned… After my parents moved to live closer to me and my sisters, they were still on the hook financially for their monthly condo fees until we found a buyer. Thankfully, they could afford it. For others, though, family members may be forced to financially support an aging parent, causing imbalanced abilities to contribute funds.

Working with your family to provide care has its positives and negatives. To keep things harmonious, carefully consider your choices and talk with your siblings before delegating your responsibilities as a parental caregiver.

1 Be hard  on solving the problem, not the people.

Keep the conversation going in real time.

Ask yourself would I rather be happy or right.

Resist the urge to turn everything into a catastrophe.

Bite your tongue. Think before responding.

Rick Lauber is a published author and freelance writer. He has written Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (Self-Counsel Press). Visit

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