Caregiver admin tasks time-consuming and often underappreciated
Columnist Carol Bradley Bursack explains that dividing caregiving tasks can be more complicated than it first seems.
Dear Carol: I take care of my parents’ finances as well as their medical care. I also schedule a bi-weekly in-home caregiver, do their grocery shopping, take them to medical appointments, and provide transportation for their activities with friends. I update my siblings regularly, but since I’m not providing daily hands-on care, they don’t think this is a big deal. Their opinion wouldn’t matter except that these tasks are incredibly time-consuming. When I suggest that they take on some of the responsibility, they tell me that they visit our parents every couple of weeks, so they are doing their share. Do you have any ideas for how I can convince them that I need help? – GL
Dear GL: Thank you for writing about this underappreciated aspect of caregiving. Financial management, battles with health insurance, attending medical appointments and being a social director can feel like an additional part-time job. Yet, as you’ve indicated, people who aren’t trying to juggle these tasks might be puzzled that you consider it a big deal.
Additionally, caregiving, in general, entails constant decision-making. Decision-making draws on both our cognitive and emotional reserves. Over time, this process can be tiresome for anyone, but when we are making decisions for the welfare of other people, it’s downright exhausting.
That said, be careful what you ask for. Dividing up the tasks will theoretically free up some time for you, maybe even giving you space to take a few deep breaths. In some cases, though, it just complicates the issue. If the primary caregiver must remind the person who took over a task to stay up to date, that too is time-consuming. Worse, if the person in charge of a task makes changes on their own without including the primary caregiver, the caregiver can be left without needed resources.
Additionally, it’s rare to find two people who think completely alike, so you can expect that this person will do things with which you might disagree. If their approach is just another way of looking at an issue, then you should be able to work out a solution. However, if they are making wrong decisions out of ignorance, or neglecting your parents’ needs, you’re looking at trouble.
For you, this could be a “choose your battles” moment with your siblings. Presumably, you know their strengths and weaknesses, as well as have some feel for their other challenges. One of your siblings may have an ill spouse or a child with extra needs. In this case, I’d give them a pass, though strangely that sibling may be the person who actually offers to help.
I’m presenting some discouraging scenarios to you to help you think through both sides. There are families who divide up these tasks beautifully. There are now wonderful organizing tools that can be set up electronically to keep everyone informed and up to date so it’s much easier to share tasks now than it was even a decade ago. I’m hoping that this will be the case for your family.