Proper family communication is key when it comes to your senior parent’s care. Good communication can help you as a caregiver feel understood and supported, while poor communication can make you feel alone and taken for granted. Here are some tips for talking through issues when you’re the family caregiver.
Have a Family Meeting Before Caregiving Begins
The best way to start off a caregiving arrangement is to have a family meeting beforehand, making sure everyone understands her own role in ensuring the success of your parent’s well-being. Family meetings can set the tone for how the caregiving process will go from that point on.
If you didn’t hold a meeting in the beginning, ask that family members meet with you now, either in person or on conference call. With Skype and speakerphones, it’s easy to get everyone involved with family communication, even if they live across the country.
Explain How Situations Make You Feel Without Getting Angry
Siblings who aren’t involved with caregiving may think you have it all covered. They could assume things are going fine unless you tell them about your own needs. When you do, make sure you don’t lash out. Never assume that someone else can completely understand how you feel unless you tell him.
Aim for words like, “When this happens, it makes me feel like…” instead of “You never help” or “You don’t understand.” Use language that explains your feelings without being accusatory.
Remain Calm When Talking to Your Senior
When communicating with your parent, remain calm and understanding even when you’re feeling stressed. Take a deep breath before losing your cool or saying things you’ll later regret. This is especially true with cases of dementia, where calmly breaking down the routines of the day can make all the difference in the response from your parent.
You may believe that your siblings should help you in some way, even if they live across the country. While this is true, you’ll still need to calmly lay out your expectations with them rather than assuming they’ll do what you think is right.
For example, let family members know when:
- You’re at your stress limit;
- Your caregiving responsibilities are causing problems at work or home;
- There has been a change of any kind in your parent’s health; or
- You’re in need of their emotional support.
Ask for what you need, whether it’s a kind word, a regular phone call to your parent, or some time off.
Everyone reacts differently when a parent ages, and some family members feel helpless because they aren’t nearby. If you accuse them of not caring, their response won’t be as open as you’d hoped for. Never assume that your family knows what you’re thinking or how you feel.
Proper family communication can help each person feel valued while also preparing him for changes in your senior parent’s health.
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