Only-Children: Caregiving without Siblings

Jamie lives on the same street as her parents, who are in their 80’s, and still reside in the house in which she grew up.  Her father, Sid, is diabetic and has had a hip replacement; her mother, Mary, survived breast cancer and last year underwent heart valve surgery. She takes her mother grocery shopping, but otherwise they haven’t required much assistance at all. Yet, Jamie is frightened. She is an only child. What would happen to her parents if something happened to her?

Jamie feels overwhelmed and worried about what’s to come. What if it turns out to be too much of a weight on her shoulders to handle it all alone? She wishes she had siblings to help. What she doesn’t realize is that sometimes, when there are siblings, they are not always on the same page. This can cause fighting and hostility. Sometimes they get along fine and agree on what’s best for their loved ones. Which is the harder road: Shouldering a sometimes crushing responsibility on your own? Or battling with siblings at a time when working together is crucial?

One advantage to the larger family is that siblings can manage to overcome their antagonisms. Troubled families may require a neutral third party — a family therapist, a geriatric care manager, a social worker, or a mediator in order to work together. Read our recent blog post about dealing with siblings in planning for a loved one’s care for more details.

When people think of only-children they think of having no one to turn to, but that’s not usually the case.  If you are an only child like Jamie, it can be done. She could find camaraderie in a caregiver support group, or seek help from a counselor. She could look to her spouse or partner, and friends. Only-children usually cultivate strong bonds with friends and others, so they don’t have to go it alone. They’re used to reaching out.

The following are tips for only-children caregivers. They work for those with siblings, too, as well as long-distance family caregivers:

• Seek help from your support system. Friends, spouses and your own children can help with Grandma (even if it’s just phone calls).
• Don’t try to go it alone. Ask docs and other caregivers for advice  and resources. Reminder: Many caregivers try to do everything themselves and get sick. No one can afford that, especially an only child.
• Hire a “sibling.” A professional geriatric care manager will be able to guide you, hook you up with programs, agencies and specific needs. She will be able to steer you to volunteer transportation initiatives, for instance, a bookkeeper, or in-home aide. Use our list of trusted referrals for resources and professionals that we have found to be helpful to many of our clients.

What would happen if nursing home care becomes necessary for one of both of Jamie’s parents? Nursing homes in Northern Virginia cost $12,000 – $15,000 per month. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting you from having to go broke to pay for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website. Call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.


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