My wife, a home-care physical therapist, and I have an interesting perspective when it comes to seeing how the “kids” are now caring for their parents. We get to see how the care and love that parents show their children is reciprocated when the parents can no longer, fully take care of themselves.
But, like many families, that care is not spread around the entire unit. Both my wife’s and my parents live in New Jersey, and we both have one sibling living in relatively close proximity to them, while our other siblings, as well as ourselves, live out-of-state. If our parents need the care and support to carry on with their lives, unless they move to New Mexico, we cannot provide the daily support.
And that is where the issues can arise. The caretaker sibling has taken on a huge responsibility. And in addition to the responsibility, is the emotional drain of seeing your parents in a weakened state. And the non-caretaker siblings cannot fully understand the full impacts of those added burdens.
Perception is reality.
And when the non-caretakers come in for a long weekend or even a week stay, that experience may lead them to think that caring for mom or dad is pretty straight forward. Write an extra check or two and drive a little more to bring them to the doctors, but overall a minor bump in life’s road.
What is not contemplated is the true reality. That the caretaker has other plans, other things going on in his life. It is not a long weekend or a vacation. The caretaking is part of the daily routine. And when things go wrong, like an unexpected illness, the emotional toll increases exponentially!
When the caretaker tries to vent to us non-caretakers, we may take it as complaining or exaggeration. Our perception is that the caretaking is easy. But the reality is so much different.
My wife and I have a chance to work with those people giving the care and support. We see that those people need some support too.
A good estate plan helps ensure the right people have the right powers to help out when needed. But it takes more than that to act on the plan. It takes the support of the family. Communication is the key. The caretakers need to talk about the burdens, but also the pleasures of being the person who is relied on. And the non-caretakers need to listen and offer support, in some meaningful way. Take the time to see how the other side is perceiving the situation. Make it a shared reality.
Working together, in support of one another will provide mom and dad with the care they need, and the relationship between the siblings can continue to grow.
Contributed by MH Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney James P. Plitz.
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