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Conflicting family needs: How to cope

If you have a spouse, children, and elderly parents, the day may come when, suddenly, you have to cope with all their conflicting needs.

How will you cope?

Naturally, you'll want to do all you can yourself. But going it alone could wear you out fast. When the immediate crisis has passed—after a stroke, your father has been transferred to a rehabilitation facility, for example—take the time to organize the resources you have.

Summon a siblings meeting. If you have brothers and sisters, discuss who will deal with the various issues that may arise as time goes on. Doing so can help avoid confusion and resentment later. For example, while one sibling may assume responsibility for interviewing doctors and helping determine treatment options, another brother or sister could be helping with regularly scheduled visits and coordinating care.

Learn about resources available through your or your spouse’s employer. When we think of the benefits our employers provide, we think of our retirement plan, paid vacation, or health insurance.

However, your or your spouse's employer may have made arrangements with an organization that can help you find local groups or specialists to help care for an elderly parent or sick child.

The organization may be able to help you locate nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home-care aides, among other things. They may even suggest a local counselor who can help you deal with the stresses of your circumstances.

Understand your company's leave policy. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), your, or your spouse's employer (or both) may have to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to deal with personal family issues such as a health crisis.

However, obtaining leave under the act may not be as easy as walking into your boss' office and saying that you'll be out for two weeks. Your company may have a complicated process for granting leave. So, it would be helpful for you to know ahead of time what steps you have to take and what forms you will have to fill out.

Contact professionals already involved in your parent's care. Of course, you want to get in touch with your mom or dad's doctor as soon as possible. But others can help too.

1. The social worker or care manager at the hospital, nursing home or rehabilitation facility where your parent is being treated can tell you what other services are available to help your parent and can help plan convalescent care, The National Association of Social Workers says.

Get other care giving suggestions from the National Association of Social Workers.*

2. A geriatric care manager can assess your parent's situation, arrange for other support services, keep you posted on what is going on, and even step in when an emergency occurs.

You can get additional information from the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.*

3. An attorney specializing in elder law can see to it that your parents get all of the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security assistance to which they are entitled. You may be able to find one through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.*

Seek help for household duties

No doubt that the serious problems your parents may face—such as illness or a handicap—can drain your time and energy.

But even if your parents stay relatively healthy, they could find it harder to cope with everyday chores. Help yourself and your parents by helping them arrange for:

  • Services to plow their driveway and walk in winter and to do the lawn in summer
  • A cleaning service to periodically spruce up their house.
  • A bill-paying service.
  • A transportation service, if they can no longer drive.

Don't know where to find these services where your parents live? Religious organizations and local governments often keep lists of companies that will provide services to the elderly.

Take care of yourself

Dealing with the simultaneous demands of your family and your parents can stress and fatigue you and ultimately affect your health. It is important, then, for you to make an effort to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

You can find sources for emotional and psychological support at helpguide.org,* Senior Magazine Online,* and Aging Parents and Elder Care.

In addition, relaxation techniques* you can practice at home can help you ease some of the stresses involved in being caught between the needs of your immediate family and those of your parents.

So can exercise. Working out at least three of four times a week in a gym is ideal. But if you don't have time for that, even a daily half-hour brisk walk can go a long way toward helping you unwind.

*When you access any of the sites mentioned in this article, you will be leaving our site. Vanguard is not responsible for the accuracy of information on third-party sites. Vanguard receives no remuneration for website links in this article.

 This article is for educational purposes only.

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