There is no underestimating the importance of family in our lives. From the time we take our first breath, until our last, family is the one thing we know we can count on, the people who know us best, who will always be there for us, who will help us carry the load.
But today’s families are fundamentally different than those just 50 or 100 years ago. We no longer live as closely as we once did. Adult children are scattered across the country, and even around the globe. Yes, we keep in touch by phone, or email, or Facebook, but it’s not quite the same.
We live separate lives, touching base now and again, sharing a vacation or an important family event. This new structure works only so long as there is no crisis, as long as Mom and Dad are healthy and living without assistance.
But when that changes, the new family dynamic can reveal deep divides, open old wounds, foster resentment and spur dissention.
Most of the time, it is the child who lives closest to the aging parent who steps in to help. At first, it’s only little things. Driving Mom to the doctor’s office. Helping Dad understand his Medicare statements. Slowly, as the parent’s health issues become pronounced, more help is needed. Emergency calls in the middle of the night. Grocery shopping. Paying bills. Cooking and cleaning. Yard work. Soon, the nearby sibling finds themselves responsible for nearly all of the parent’s needs, torn between parent, spouse and children, resentful of siblings who may not even realize how the situation has devolved.
No one wants to be in such circumstances. So it’s important that siblings openly discuss the issues that come with an aging parent, including sharing personal and financial responsibilities; providing for respite; ensuring the parent’s safety and well-being; managing day-to-day household chores; and considering end-of-life decisions.
“Siblings often see their parent’s needs differently,” said Dana Cornell, president of Apple Senior Citizen Caregivers. “The sibling who lives close by sees the daily ups and downs, the challenges of taking care of routine chores like housekeeping and meal preparation as well as the incremental decline in health,” Cornell said. “They often see impending disaster where the sibling who lives far away believes all is well with Mom or Dad.”
As caregiving responsibilities increase, and assistance from far-away siblings is sparse or non-existent, resentment grows. “It’s a natural reaction, even among the most loving and dedicated children,” Cornell said. “It just feels unfair and, of course, it is.”
One way to avoid this trap is to make sure lines of communication are open between all siblings. Cornell recommends a regular family meeting in which the parent’s needs are discussed and agreements reached on how to best meet those needs. Meeting face-to-face is best, but when distances are great, a telephone meeting will work. Just be sure to allot sufficient time to discuss all issues. “It helps if the closest sibling makes a list in advance and shares it so brothers and sisters have a chance to think about problems and consider solutions,” he said.
If family relationships are already strained, it may be beneficial to have an impartial professional – a social worker, geriatric nurse or counselor – facilitate the discussion, Cornell noted. “This way, all sides can be heard and the family can come to decisions that are in the best interest of the aging parent.”
It’s increasingly common for aging parents to want to remain in their own homes. Not only is this the most affordable option for Mom, Dad and the family, it is probably the best in terms of overall health and mental acuity. Parents who age in their own homes are generally happier, have fewer episodes of depression and experience less cognitive decline. When this option is taken, it is important that the parent’s needs for safety, social interaction, mental stimulation, nutrition, physical activity and hygiene are met. Family, of course, is essential.
Apple Senior Citizen Caregivers can be a valuable resource to those aging in place as well as their adult children. Apple Caregivers provides a range of services to assist seniors with activities of daily living, including:
• Meal preparation
• Light housekeeping
• Morning wake-up
• Evening bedtime
• Transportation and escort to medical appointments
• Transportation and escort to social events,
including church, concerts, graduations
• Personal hygiene
• Laundry services
• Grocery shopping and community errands
“At Apple Caregivers, our focus is on helping senior citizens and others who just need a little help to live independently to do so for as long as possible,” Cornell said. Apple Caregivers is not a home healthcare service. Instead, the company focuses on the day-to-day activities that can become difficult for the aging or infirm.
Apple Caregivers is an ideal respite for the close-by sibling who has been shouldering the responsibility of caring for Mom or Dad alone. “We can provide support and relief for as little as four hours or for as long as several weeks,” Cornell said, allowing caregivers time to care for their own health, for their families or even to enjoy a vacation.
Apple Senior Citizen Caregivers is an affordable, reasonable solution to the dilemma of ensuring Mom or Dad is safe, happy and cared for. Apple Caregivers are like members of the family – only closer and available whenever you need them.
For more information about Apple Senior Citizen Caregivers, please call (304) 781-1800 or toll free 1-888-991-7787. Services are available throughout Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
Apple Senior Citizen Caregivers
103A Second Ave., Chesapeake, OH 45619
Contact: Jenny Marshall (740) 310-5075
916 5th Avenue Suite 204, Huntington, WV 25701
Contact: Becky Morrison (304) 781-1800
Call Apple Caregivers toll free at (888) 991-7787 or visit them online at applecaregiversinfo.com