Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
What challenges can you expect

Caregiving can change your relationship with your family members, whether the person needing care is your parent, spouse, another relative or an adult child. This change often brings up a number of issues and emotions. If you find that you are caregiving for elderly parents or other relatives, the following may be some of the challenges that you will encounter. Again, keep in mind that not all families experience all these issues, and not all families find these issues to be problems. It is important to remember that everyone experiences caregiving differently.

  • A shift in dependency usually results when parents become frail and need assistance to maintain as much independence as possible. Because this often alters the parent-child dynamic within relationships, tensions or difficult emotions may arise.
  • Finances become an issue when the care receiver’s resources are insufficient to cover the expenses of daily living, health, and housing. Because so many people experience difficulty talking about money, this important topic is often left until too late.
  • Stress related to competition and collision between roles can be related to parenting, housework, employment, maintaining social ties, and eldercare, as well as potential isolation, dealing with health care providers, and significant life changes.
  • Ignorance about the aging process can lead to difficulties judging whether a senior’s behaviour is normal or a cause for concern, and also difficulties with decision-making.
  • Emotional responses to the changes that accompany aging and frailty and the demands of caregiving can surprise many.
  •  Ignorance about the workings of the health care system and community resources can result in inappropriate expectations from the "system", poor decision-making, time-consuming run-around and inflated emotional states during crisis.
  •  Difficulty setting limits on involvement, coupled with unrealistic expectations, a strong sense of duty or loyalty, a commitment to caring, and guilt can feed an inability to say no to demands and expectations of family members or the health care system.
  •  Lack of planning for the future is common to many families. It means that important discussions are avoided because they are awkward. Things can become really tense if these awkward discussions come up during a crisis. Typical topics that need discussion and planning include: housing needs as frailty increases; finances; how caregiving will be carried out in the family; the care receiver’s preferences regarding heroic measures; and dying and death, after death services, power of attorney and distribution of the estate.

3. This sub-section has been adapted from Our Aging Parents developed by Clarissa P. Green, Consulting and Counselling, Vancouver, B.C.
4. Clarissa Green.