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The steps families should take to plan for adult caregiving

"Minding Our Elders" columnist Carol Bradley Bursack turns over her column to a guest writer who says there are things families need to figure out before making big promises.

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Carol Bradley Bursack, "Minding Our Elders" columnist.
Contributed / Carol Bradley Bursack
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Dear readers: Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and family therapist, is a leading educator about family caregiving. One reason for his effectiveness is that he has been a caregiver himself. I sent Dr. Jacobs a note explaining a question that I’d received about preparing for caregiving and expected a brief quote in return. However, in accordance with his generous nature, he provided so much more.

Therefore, this week, I’m honored to have Dr. Jacobs answer our reader who wondered how to plan for caregiving:

1. "The fact that you are already thinking about caregiving and beginning to plan is half the battle,” Dr. Jacobs says.

The next steps are to:

  • Learn about the key issues your parents and in-laws may face.
  • Learn how to discuss those issues with them and develop a collaborative partnership.
  • Determine what you are willing, able, and available to do for them as their needs increase.

2. I'm a fan of Tim Prosch's book, "The Other Talk," available on Amazon . While it is written from the viewpoint of the topics that an aging parent should bring up with their children, it outlines the major concerns of adult children, including finances, advanced medical directives and living environment.

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3. Before discussing any of these issues with an aging parent, an adult child should first lay the groundwork for working harmoniously together. Many parents are concerned that if they allow their children to do anything for them, they will become dependent and lose control over their lives. They are also often worried about being a "burden" to their family. I advise adult children to try to allay those fears by stating that they don't want to take over a parent's life but instead provide just enough support to enable them to live the way they want to. The idea here is to frame accepting help from an adult child as empowering, not disempowering.

Sometimes adult children say they will "do whatever it takes." Those words sound good but are rarely realistic. We all have multiple family roles that we must balance. Focusing all your energies on your parents means neglecting, to a degree, your spouse and kids. That would be bad for them. It would also make your parents feel terrible if, say, you undermined your marriage because of caregiving.

I recommend making an honest appraisal of how many hours can be devoted each week to caring for parents and how many hours should be preserved for nurturing other family relationships. Then create a schedule that divvies up the available hours. Remember that you are not required to do everything yourself for your parents. You are required to help them live as well as possible, perhaps with your help but also with the support of other family members and community and professional services.

Thank you, Dr. Jacobs! It’s always a pleasure to connect with you.

For my readers, consider reading books by Dr. Jacobs, including this one available at https://emotionalsurvivalguide.com/ : "The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent."

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.

Related Topics: FAMILYWELLNESS
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver and a nationally-recognized presence in caregiver support. She's the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” a longtime newspaper columnist and host of her blog at mindingoureldersblogs.com. Carol's an introverted book nerd, so you won't see her mugging in viral videos, but you can easily reach her using the contact form at mindingourelders.com.
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