November is National Family Caregiver Awareness Month, and there is no shortage of reasons to celebrate. Family caregivers make tremendous personal sacrifices, and provide an enormous social safety net for millions of people in need. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 43 million of these everyday heroes provided unpaid care to a dependent relative last year. On average, this same research shows they spend about 21 hours a week helping loved ones, with about one-quarter dedicating more than 40 hour a week. 

 

While deserving of high-praise, it is worth noting that family caregiving dynamics can lead to family strife. Typically, the bulk of care responsibilities falls on one person, known as the primary caregiver. It is important for spouses, adult siblings, and other relatives to understand all that this entails including, but not limited to, diminished personal and professional opportunities, basing routine life decisions around the well-being of the dependent person, and high-levels of emotional stress. 

 

When combining the rigors of assisting with daily activities, such as meal preparation, bathing and dressing, as well as transportation and medical support, caregiving can be downright exhausting. As a result, family caregivers often struggle with taking care of themselves and with having feelings of being taken for granted. 

 

A primary caregiver, however, should acknowledge any resentments they have with siblings, spouses, and other relatives stemming from their choice to volunteer to provide dependent-care. Practical steps to resolve conflict can be taken once a basic understanding of roles is achieved. Let us share a few examples with you here:. 

  • Family caregivers should share important medical and health information without oversimplifying or holding back.

 

  • Relatives should keep in mind that dependent loved ones may say things that are not necessarily true. 

 

  • Family caregivers should be able to ask relatives for help, but without infusing guilt or anger. Caregiver relatives need to oblige whenever possible.

 

  • Commit to healthy, timely communication, and do not let stressful issues tear your family apart. 

 

Even the most “functional” families bring baggage to the table when addressing important care decisions, especially regarding items like powers of attorney, financial management, and health care estate planning. We encourage you not to wait to meet with an elder care attorney who understands these issues. He or she can have the added benefit of serving as an objective third-party who is immune to emotional family disputes, while providing expert legal guidance on important matters. Do not wait to contact our law practice with your questions this November and throughout the year.