How to Navigate Responsibilities When You're Not Your Parents’ Only Caregiver
Taking care of parents is a common task for many family caregivers. In fact, researchers estimate 36% of caretakers provide support for at least one of their parents.
Many only children fall into caretaking because there’s no one else to rely on, but if you have siblings, it can be challenging to determine who’s responsible for what.
Certain factors, like location, might prevent you from providing in-person care, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to your parents’ needs. By taking the time to define everyone’s responsibilities, you can provide high-quality care without letting important things like medication adherence or routine doctor’s appointments fall through the cracks.
If you’re struggling to establish a balanced workload, or aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve compiled a list of several suggestions to help you better juggle responsibilities between multiple caregivers.
1) Determine the scope of what’s needed.
Before you divvy up caregiving responsibilities, it’s important to determine the scope of your parents’ needs. It might help to answer questions like:
How mobile are they?
Can they still handle daily tasks like bathing, preparing meals, and using the toilet?
What type of medication are they on? Do they regularly remember to take it?
Do they have transportation to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, or other activities?
Do they have any health problems that might increase the risk of a fall or an accident?
By taking the time to answer these questions, you can get a better idea of how hands-on you’ll need to be and if outside help, like a home health nurse, is necessary.
2) Define your strengths.
We’ve all heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” but the same can be said for taking care of parents. Before you map out which sibling is responsible for what, schedule a meeting to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has unique skills they bring to the table, and if you play to those skills, caregiving feels less like a chore.
Caregiving responsibilities fall into several categories, including medical care, finances, transportation, and patient advocacy. If your brother is a CPA, he might feel comfortable managing the financial aspects of your parents' care, such as paying the bills or setting up their estate.
If you have strong communication skills and an understanding of medical terminology, you could attend your parents’ doctor’s appointments, ask questions, and share any important updates with your caregiving team.
Everyone has to step outside their comfort zone eventually, but if you establish a basic framework, it’s possible to streamline the caregiving process.
3) Trust in technology.
To provide the best possible care, you need to stick to a schedule. That’s especially true if your parents take multiple medications, have special dietary needs, or visit the doctor on a regular basis. Instead of trying to remember everything on your own, utilize technology.
Raymond Dacillo, Director of Operations at Toronto, Ontario-based C-Care Health Services, recommends the app care zone. “This free app allows you to organize health information, will enable caregivers to place advanced directives, contact information, insurance, medication information, and medical files. It also comes with a shareable calendar, which is terrific when coordinating care between multiple people and assigning tasks and sharing information.”
“Other options include digital notebooks such as Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote, and EverNote,” Dacillo said. “Using digital technology among caregivers allows information to be shared between everyone, including family members.”
If your caretaking responsibilities include frequent diaper changes, the use of nutritionally enhanced beverages, or supplements, consider signing up for our autoship program. Autoship allows you to turn any order into a recurring one, so you never run out of the items you need.
The process is incredibly easy. Simply visit Carewell.com, prepare your shopping cart, select the products you want to automatically receive, and click “create subscription.” We’ll take care of the rest!
4) Establish a process for administering medication.
One of the most challenging aspects of caretaking with multiple caregivers is medication adherence. Taking too much or too little of a drug can have a serious effect on your parents’ health. Therefore, it’s important to establish a system everyone follows.
Dacillo recommends writing everything down. “Having a paper log or chart of medications given each day and left at the home is the simplest method. Whenever medication is administered, the caregiver needs to mark down the day and time it was given. Even documenting when your loved one refuses to take their medication and the reason why is essential.”
Aside from regularly filling out your parents’ medication chart, consider setting up daily alarms for medication reminders. You can do this on your phone, computer, or a smart device like Google Hub or Alexa.
Siblings who provide care from afar won’t be able to access the physical medication chart, so you might want to keep them informed with a digital document like a Google spreadsheet. It might seem like a hassle, but writing everything down helps reduce mix-ups and missed medications.
5) Regularly meet with your fellow caretakers.
After you’ve established a caretaking routine, it’s important to check in with all parties. A bi-weekly phone call or video chat is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page. It’s also an opportunity to discuss questions or concerns, update siblings who are providing care from afar, and clarify the steps for routine tasks like meals and snacks, diaper changes, or recreation.
You might also want to create an online profile where everyone involved with your parents' care can connect. “Creating a Facebook page or utilizing other social media platforms such as WhatsApp will help keep everyone informed and updated,” Dacillo said. “These apps allow for questions and answers to be viewed by all. Also, photos of daily events can be shared. However, make sure that permissions are made private to only those in the circle of care.”
6) Close out each day with an “end of shift” report.
When multiple people are responsible for providing care, it’s critical you know who’s done what. One of the easiest ways to do that is with an “end of shift” report. These reports communicate everything you’ve done on a specific date to other caregivers and family and should include details on medications administered, food and beverages served, appointments attended or scheduled, pain levels, and other general information about your loved one’s day.
Navigating responsibilities between multiple caregivers isn’t always easy, but by following these tips and tricks, you can provide your parents with the comprehensive care they need.
Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.