When caring for a loved one, know your strengths, set your limits

April 26, 2013 | By Lorenzo Mejia

Let’s say your loved one is in Chapel Hill, your sister is in Durham and you live in western North Carolina.   If you decide to work as a family team, it makes sense to agree in advance how your efforts can complement one another. Ideally, each of you will be able to take on tasks best suited to your skills or interests.

For example, who is available to help Mom get to the grocery store each week? Who can help Dad organize his move to an assisted living facility? After making these kinds of decisions, remember that over time responsibilities may need to be revised to reflect changes in the situation, your parent’s needs, and each family member’s abilities and limitations.  Be realistic about how much you can do and what you are willing to do.

When thinking about your strengths, consider what you are particularly good at and how those skills might help in the current situation:

  • Are you good at finding information, keeping people up-to-date on changing conditions, and offering cheer, whether on the phone or with a computer?
  • Are you good at supervising and leading others?
  • Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and interpreting what they say to others?
  • Is your strongest suit doing the numbers—paying bills, keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing insurance policies and reimbursement reports?
  • Are you the one in the family who can fix anything, while no one else knows the difference between pliers and a wrench?

When reflecting on your limits, consider:

  • How often, both mentally and financially, can you afford to travel?
  • Are you emotionally prepared to take on what may feel like a reversal of roles between you and your parent—taking care of your parent instead of your parent taking care of you?  Can you continue to respect your parent’s independence?
  • Can you be both calm and assertive when communicating from a distance?
  • How will your decision to take on caregiving responsibilities affect your work and home life?

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the National Institute on Aging for this valuable content.

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