Barbara explains the difference a guiding hand can make: I would like to thank you for your expert and caring assistance in helping find the right aged care home. It was very difficult for us to be involved in my cousin’s situation and to help him effectively. We appreciated that you were able to take us through all the aged care rules and regulations and to help us understand the differences between places.
Once we agreed upon a home, you helped smooth the way with the administration, particularly regarding my cousin's medical needs. We felt supported by your expertise throughout this taxing process and appreciated your calm manner and great communication. You are sage indeed! It was very pleasing to always receive from you quick acknowledgements, answers and
solutions and we could not have arrived at this good resolution without you.
Angela and Lisa were integral in finding a facility that was best suited to all my mother’s needs. They met with mum and took the time to fully understand her as a person, what she was passionate about and then consulted with us as to which facilities would be suitable and tick all the boxes for mum as an individual. We sincerely and gratefully thank Lisa and Angela for their knowledgeable and nurturing support and ensuring that our mother was well looked after and prioritised during this difficult time.
Most women plan for motherhood. They consider what they will have to change in their daily lives to include caring for themselves while pregnant and then caring for a child. They consider the years that will be required for them to be “on call” to attend to the care needs of their children. Mothers make changes to their accommodation circumstances to have safe environments for their children.
Daughterhood and providing care for an older relative is something many women do not plan or prepare for. Daughterhood often arrives suddenly and without warning. It requires the daughter to be “on call”, available and to assume the responsibility for care coordination. Such responsibilities include making appointments with medical specialists, arranging transport and then finding and managing care providers. To advocate on behalf of the older adult so they can achieve their end of life goals. There is not consideration given to the time it will take to care for the older person.
Motherhood is a caring concept understood by the community. It is discussed openly and many women have experienced being a mother. There are established discussion and support groups to enable information sharing called “mother’s groups”. The goals of care are defined and measurable through growth and developmental markers.
On the other hand, Daughterhood is not discussed and daughters can often feel isolated and alone. End of life discussions with our parents are often confronting and many do not want to consider their end of life preferences. Family and sibling relationships may be fragmented, hindering opportunities to engage and discuss care matters. Each older person’s care goals are individual and different. There are no clear objective goals or markers to gauge success.
Motherhood is an accepted care role within the community and daughterhood is a taboo topic. There is an increasing need to consider daughterhood. To plan and prepare for a future when the older relatives may not be as well as they are today.
* This is not exclusive for women, men equally share these roles.
It is hard enough to get past your emotions when caring for your parents while trying to make the “right” decisions on their behalf. It becomes more difficult when there is conflict among the adult siblings. How does a family overcome sibling conflict when caring for ageing parents?
Communication is Key
When a crisis hits, siblings should come together and hold a meeting in a neutral location, a place everyone feels welcome. This meeting is most productive when siblings can find common ground in the love they feel for their parent(s) and in their collective desire to provide the best care. The siblings should prepare an agenda for the meeting and each sibling should be encouraged to share his/her opinions.
It is important to realize that some family members might not participate, and that all family members may not be able to take on an equal role in care responsibilities. Each sibling needs to identify what he/she can do to help and then a plan of care can be developed incorporating each family member’s availability. Avoid bringing up past sibling conflicts. Instead, focus the conversation on the situation at hand. It will likely take more than one meeting to come to a complete resolution.
Bring in a Facilitator
When there is tension, an outside, third-party facilitator may be needed to facilitate a family meeting. This provides for a neutral, objective and less emotional opinion. The facilitator can help make sure all siblings are heard during the meeting and can help develop an appropriate care plan that includes input of all parties.
This objective participant can be an independent professional. One example is a care manager who has specific expertise in the care of older adults. This expert is able to provide education and resources, as well as outline the various care options available to the family. They can help the family develop and implement an appropriate and affordable plan of care.
Having a conversation between parents and adult children well in advance of a crisis can help avoid or reduce sibling conflict. When parents are healthy, they should talk to their children about their wishes regarding their future health care. The conversation should include areas of concern such as organ donation, artificial nutrition and hydration, resuscitation and use of artificial ventilators. The talk should also include discussion regarding their living environment as well as their wishes concerning their funerals. All of this information should be put in writing at the time of that talk.
Parents should also discuss with their children how they plan to finance their long-term care. Additionally, legal documents such as a Power of Attorney (for finances) and Enduring Guardian (for their health care decisions) should be executed with a lawyer. This information should be shared with all children to avoid conflict.
When parents share their wishes ahead of time, adult children don’t have to make these health care choices blindly at a time of heightened emotional stress. Instead, the children have a written guide, provided by their parents, that takes the guesswork out of care and end-of-life decision-making.
Author: Debra Feldman, Debra D. Feldman & Associates, Ltd, NorthStar Care & Guidance
Attorneys and Guardians can face many responsibilities and challenges that they may not feel prepared to able to deal with. A third party may be able to save you time, reassure you that you are making well-informed decisions, or to help mediate decisions between family members. An independent voice can help you to navigate through emotional or overwhelming situations and promote the best outcome for everyone.
An independent Care Coordinator can assess and manage a loved one’s care needs, coordinate with medical practitioners, implement a plan to age at home, assist with moving to independent or residential homes, or simply communicate with distant family members.
There are many ways a Care Coordinator can assist an Attorney and Guardian: