Families consist of complex and sometimes competing relationships. If you have begun caring for an aging parent, you have to grapple with the responsibilities for them and your immediate family. How does that juggling act affect all involved?

The Effect on Family Relationships

The average age of a family caregiver is 49. Typically, she (65 percent are women) or he is likely to have a spouse and children at home. As the senior’s care needs increase with age, the needs of the immediate family do not lessen; they may actually increase. Spouses and children may become resentful of you, or your aging parent, and the increasing amounts of time and energy spent away from the family — especially if you begin missing special moments and events, and in their perspective are not able to fully manage your role as a parent.

Financial concerns can also enter into the picture. Research shows that family caregivers spend thousands of dollars of their own money when caring for an aging parent, including assisting with mortgage payments, medical equipment costs, home modifications to accommodate senior mobility challenges, personal care services, medications, and co-payments for doctors and hospitals.

That translates into sacrifices that fall on the caregiver and his or her immediate family. According to AARP, the following often are sacrificed:

  • Trips or vacations, 45%
  • Dining in restaurants, 45%
  • Personal doctor visits, 19%
  • Groceries, 18%
  • Household supplies, 14%
  • Personal medicine, 13%
  • Children’s education, 5%

Other financial costs are more difficult to calculate, such as a caregiver who has to reduce his or her employment hours or resign from her or his position to devote more time to the parent. Not only is there an immediate cost to the family, but opportunities for future job advancement may also be lost.

The stress and fatigue you may experience after a day of caregiving could also be felt by your immediate family, and may become a point of contention and resentment.

Other family members, including siblings, may criticize you for the support and assistance you are providing. The source could be long-held tensions, jealousies and disagreements that have little to do with you being a family caregiver. The quality and amount of care that you are providing, as well as the cost, may be questioned as well. Family members who live a long distance from the parents may not understand the needs you are addressing or may simply be laying their anxiety about their parents worsening health on you.

There are some positive effects on your immediate family. Your children will see your example of giving back to a senior loved one. And as you spend time caring for an aging parent, your life will be enriched – and you will be able to pass on stories and family history to a younger generation.

Find Support

It is important to find as many resources as possible to assist you in your role as a caregiver. Talk to your family and friends. Find out what they can contribute. Working as a team can improve relationships between your family members.

However, you also need time with your immediate family and for yourself. Family caregivers, on average, spend four years in that role. That’s a long time to devote yourself to the care of another person. Along the way, you and your immediate family will need breaks.

There are caregiver support groups that can provide great information and an emotional lift if you have begun to feel isolated and depressed.

In addition, temporarily taking your loved one to a nursing home, assisted living community or an adult day care could be a possibility.

There are also respite caregivers who come to the home. This enables seniors to remain in a familiar environment. The care can be for a few hours, all day, a few days, or scheduled on a regular basis.

Take advantage of these services to decompress, spend time with your spouse and children, or complete those long-delayed tasks that have been hanging over your head.

When you are caring for a senior loved one, it’s important to remember your other relationships. Whenever you need to spend a bit of time to yourself or with your other family members, Bethesda offers services that can help.

Contact us to learn more about our Respite Care program or Bethesda Senior Support Solutions.