“I’m The One Who’s Close”

Often I hear this phrase from caregivers.  Many are happy to help care for a nearby loved one.  But an initial offer to help often evolves into something much larger.  Your life is impacted.  Work is compromised, parties are missed, personal time shrinks significantly.

It happens subtly.  The family may not even notice it.  Stress increases without much discussion.

The financial cost to you is large.  You can face:

– Decreased career progression

– Lost income from missed promotions

– Lost vacation days

– Thousands of dollars in ancillary costs (e.g., picking things up at the grocery store)

– Haphazard spending due to emotional exhaustion

You may find yourself far down this path and it’s unclear what to do next.  You need to have a conversation with your family and loved ones.  They are likely less aware than you think.  Open up the communication channels.

The fear to hold such a conversation can be enormous.  ‘But my family doesn’t talk about these kinds of things’ or ‘My sister doesn’t want to help’ are common phrases.

This fear is normal.  Everyone has difficulty talking about touchy subjects that may lead to conflict.  However if you do have the conversation you will feel better.

You will have more free time.  You will balance commitments with other family members.  And above all you will spend more quality time with you loved one.

Follow these three simple steps.


Three Steps To More Balance

Step 1: Visioning 

Take out a piece of paper and ask yourself what you want?  Imagine what an ideal relationship with your loved one would be.  How often would you see them?  Would you be the one coordinating care?  Would you run errands?

What adjustments can you make to maximize quality time with your loved one?  What are those times?  What activities do you share together?

You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.  A few potential adjustments to your schedule will have a massive impact.

Visioning will unearth your actual desires and wants, not what everyone else expects of you.


Step 2: Compromises

Any caregiving role requires compromises.  Some tasks like getting groceries or talking to the insurance company may not be the ideal.  However you may be the best person to execute them.

Write down the areas where you are willing to make compromises.  Articulate those tasks that aren’t the core of your vision but will help the broader family and enrich the life of your loved one.

Also ask yourself what compromises are off the table?  Identify in particular tasks that simply aren’t working for you. They make you angry or overly tired.  Remember, just because something needs to be done doesn’t mean you need to be the one to do it.


Step 3: Wear Their Shoes 

Put yourself in the shoes of the family members you are considering speaking with.  Do they have a good perspective on your day to day tasks?  What’s going on in their lives?  What stresses are they facing?

Think about how you can meet them where they are.  This will help your discussion immensely.

Think through how you might best be able to connect with them?  Are there ways that you can start the conversation that recognizes what’s going on in their lives as well as some gaps they may have in understanding the role you have been playing recently?

The purpose behind this step is to make it a productive compassionate conversation.


Holding The Conversation

Now that you have identified your ideal situation, the sacrifices you are willing to make and how best to open up the conversation with your family, let’s review some scripts on how to hold the conversation itself.

The Open:

“I would like to chat with you for a few minutes about caring for Dad.  What is a good time for you?”

“I have a few insights about caring for Dad that I wanted to talk with you about.  It would be great to get your insight.”

Propose the idea and ask them for a time to speak about it when it’s convenient for them.  Be flexible. The purpose is to open the conversation in a friendly manner.

If they resist say, “This is an important discussion for me as I’m having some challenges that I would like to speak with you about.  I’d like to chat in the next week.  When would you be able to talk?”


The Share:

Here is an example script for the heart of the conversation:

“As you know, for the last few months I have been caring for Dad and I wanted to share with you how it’s going.  Being close to him has allowed us to share some great memories together which I will always cherish.  For example, we went to the park last week and painted.

Some parts have been really challenging however.  You may not know this but Dad is really lonely.  With Mom gone he spends a lot of his time by himself in his home and friends rarely stop by.  This means he’s always looking for visitors.  A thirty minute trip turns into a couple hours.  I’ve tried this for a few weeks but now I’m missing the chance to cook dinner for my kids and have had to cancel multiple dinners with friends.

It’s too much and I need to scale back my involvement.  I wanted to let you know this so we can think together about what some better options may be.  I’d be open to any thoughts you may have.”

Stay open.  Share with them the negative impact to your life.  Share how you will be changing your actions.  Leave an open door for discussion.

Don’t hold back on the impact.  It’s key for your family to get a full context on how your life has changed.


The Discussion:

Remain open to questions from your family members.  It will be a lot for them to take in.  Remember, they don’t see as much of the day to day activities as you do.

If you face resistance it’s ok.  The key goal is to share with them your concerns and the actions you will be taking.  Their response is up to them.  If you wish, suggest chatting again about it later.

View the discussion as an opportunity to learn about additional options.  You may not have thought of some of the options they bring up.  Remain open and focus on partnership.

These conversations never go perfectly but you will make significant strides.  You will have clarity about what you want.  You will know what changes you want to make.  You will feel empowered.

Congratulations!  You have now used healthy conversation techniques to build trust within your family.

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Published: June 11, 2015
By: JP Adams

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