When Caregiving for a Family Member Gets Complicated

General Steward Health Care

Caring for an aging parent, an ill family member or child with special needs or health issues can be draining on your energy and your family’s finances. Emotions and stress may run high for everyone involved, especially when there are difficulties or setbacks. Following are some common challenges and ways to work through them.

Health Care Decisions

What to do when family members disagree about next steps? Have a family meeting. A face-to-face meeting (if possible) allows everyone the opportunity to share their thoughts and work through conflicts, all with the goal of creating a plan that reflects the best interests of your loved one. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to discuss tough questions such as:

  • Can our loved one live independently or with some assistance? Who can take care of him or her, or what arrangements can we make for care?
  • Is there an advance health care directive or living will in place so family members are aware of their medical care wishes? Has our loved one appointed a family member or friend to make health care decisions if they are unable to do so? (The legal document is called health care proxy.)
  • Is there a durable power of attorney in place – authorizing the person named in the durable power of attorney (the agent) to conduct business and make financial decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated?

Tip: The National Healthcare Decisions Day website provides more information about advance health care directives.

Sharing the Responsibilities

Family members have varying levels of time and resources to help, as well as different skills or personality traits. Look for ways to divide the responsibilities (financial and otherwise). For example, your sister may be well-suited to serve as agent for your mother, while you or your spouse may have the time to take your mother to medical appointments or care for her in your home.

Hint: Extended family and friends can serve as helpful resources. They may be able to provide emotional support and advice, or even run errands to alleviate your hectic schedule. All you have to do is ask!

Financial Stress

The financial stress for families can be intense, especially if there are high costs for medical treatments, home health care expenses, or long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you leave your job or take time off work to care for a loved one, there are other less obvious financial costs, such as lost income or reduced savings.

Caregiver Burnout

People who take care of loved ones with chronic or debilitating illnesses often experience frustration, anger and guilt. They may feel they are under constant stress, and they frequently neglect their own health. If you’re a caregiver, the best way to care for your loved one is to care for yourself as well. Do something to relieve your stress – take a break, go for a walk, get a massage or take a nap. Also, stay on top of your own health screenings and appointments.

Warning: Don’t wait until you’re exhausted to seek help. The Family Caregiver Alliance lists resources for help at www.caregiver.org.

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.