The local adult children will generally carry the larger load. They probably have spent more time with a parent and also see changes in their behavior that won’t be noticed on a phone call. Often, the real test is spending time with the person.
Early cognitive issues just don’t get diagnosed very often. Of the those I know that were diagnosed early, the individual noticed and often had loving friends and family mention changes, and they pursued it. I will say when I went to the doctors with my parents and I asked about changes, the doctors all shut me down. It wasn’t until my parents showed up in two Emergency Rooms in two days and ended up seeing the same doctor that a doctor finally addressed what to me where very obvious cognitive issues in my parents.
What happened with my siblings was totally separate. I had noticed the issues and told my siblings. They didn’t see it. I visited often and tried to put my finger in all the dyke holes to help and was driving myself mad. I tried to illustrate to my parents the ways they were failing. While my Dad seemed to listen and even offered to go get cognitive testing, my Mom refused and debated every point. More often than not, I would leave my parents with both of us sad and angry. I eventually gave up.
As I was giving up, my siblings started to see and understand that our parents were failing. They came to town and we staged our first intervention. They had to talk me back into helping. Thankfully, we all got along but we still had many issues to address.
Set up Conference Calls on a regular schedule.
I started this blog in part for my mental health, but also to document what was going on and not have to tell 3 siblings and extended friends and family what was going on. However, my siblings and I really needed to have a dialogue about what was happening and how we might help our parents. I set up the calls using a free service called TalkShoe. One of my brothers would set the agenda. We started to talk through ways they could help.
Give each Sibling a Job
We didn’t do this right away, but having the conference calls helped me share key issues and allowed my siblings to ask questions and be involved. As we had issues, we started to figure out who could step in to help on key tasks. We needed to sell their townhouse, review the contract at their retirement community, arrange to clean out/auction off the furniture they no longer needed … among managing the day-to-day. They also started to rotate on regular visits since living with them helped understand what was really occurring since they could no longer accurately share news on their day.
Take on the Onerous Tasks
When my parents kept driving after their licenses were revoked. I tried to hide the cars. They found them. It was one of the many times their resourcefulness and ability to do things astounded me and my siblings. My brothers came to town and took the car keys away. They told them why they were doing it and drove the cars away. They stepped up and for once, I wasn’t the rotten kid.
Over time, my siblings saw how much I was doing to help my parents. They knew I left my corporate job because the strain of raising kids, caring for them, and being a full-time employee was wiping me out. At some point, they suggested that I get paid for my time. It wasn’t going to replace a salary, but it was welcomed as I transitioned and started working on building MemoryBanc to help other families be better prepared for the rest of their lives. What I know now is that many estate plans now include provisions to compensate family members who step up to help. We were sure to include it in our updated plans.
I do know that not talking is a great way to foster frustration and hurt feelings. What we did recognize is that we were losing our parents, the last thing we wanted to do was lose our sibling relationships too. I hope that you and your family will start by scheduling regular calls to talk about how to help your loved ones as well as each other. Suggested.