If your parents are elderly and becoming infirm, or if there are others who require special care in your family, due to disability or illness the situation you will need to figure out how to maintain a balance between your marital life and this often taxing situation. If you have a large family, the burden of care is often lightened by sharing the responsibilities, but if you are an only child, the problem may be more difficult to resolve.
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It is beyond the scope of this article to go into all the details necessary to discuss proper care of the elderly or those who are seriously ill. The key is to take charge of your own life and not let it be all about your family members; the following guidelines will help you make the appropriate decisions to help, while still keeping your own life functional.
GUIDELINES FOR HELPING FAMILY MEMBERS IN NEED
(From the "10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before 40," by Tina Tessina)
1. Get as much information as you can.
Learn what the problem is, what kind of help is needed, and what is involved in the care. Often local agencies, such as a Senior Citizens Center, or a non-profit foundation for the particular disease or disability involved, will have lots of good information. The Internet is also an amazing source, once you learn how to use it. Check the appendix for some suggestions on where to begin.
2. Make sure your entire family knows what the problem is, and what kind of help is needed.
Don’t let some reluctance to “bother” people or to tell the truth, or an old family relationship problem, get in the way of utilizing all the help that everyone in the family can give. If you have five people who can share the care and help, you’ll obviously have an easier time than if you try to do it alone.
3. Work to find a way for each family member to contribute help in the way that works best for him or her.
As long as the burden feels fairly distributed in general, don’t worry if one member contributes more time and another more money. It all qualifies as help, and if you try to make everyone do the same thing, you’ll end up in a struggle.
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4. Have regular discussions among the care givers.
Discuss how the arrangements are working, if everyone is doing his or her share, and how everyone feels about it. Clearing the air frequently will avoid resentments piling up.
5. Use community resources.
Especially if you’re alone, use as many community resources as you can find. People often feel negative about senior care residences or convalescent hospitals, but if placing your family member in a good care facility is financially workable and it relieves the burden of actual care so that you can be more emotionally supportive, that may well be a good decision. If your family member is at home, make sure you check out home health or hospice care options with your doctor, your medical insurance, and community agencies.