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Portrait of a loved one.

As your parents get older and need help, the caregiving responsibilities often fall on a primary caregiver – usually the person who lives closest to Mom and Dad.

According to a recent survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, fewer than 10% say there is an equal division of labor between siblings. Often the primary caregiver takes on an unusually high level of stress related to the situation. 17% say the responsibility had taken a toll on their health while 31% described the situation as emotionally stressful. It affects job performance and can be a financial burden. That is why it is best for the family to work together.

Ask for Help
Asking for help from siblings is the best way to relieve this stress and help you provide your parents with the best support. Experts recommend asking for help as soon as possible. Calling a family meeting, in person or over the phone, to discuss how the responsibilities can be shared is the best way to get everyone on the same page.

Leave the Past Behind
Working together is the only way to properly care for your parents. That can be tough though when family members are holding on to past resentments. Try to keep an open dialogue and come to an understanding that together you are wiping the slate clean. Letting go of things that happened in the past is the only way to be productive in the future.

Work to Understand Each Other
One of the biggest problems siblings face is their differing personalities. Not everyone does things the same way. Siblings can have different ideas about everything from where their parent should live to how they pay their bills. While the practical issues may be easier to sort out, the emotional issues are harder. Siblings may come to terms with their parents declining health at different times. It's important to be understanding of other people's opinions and emotions – there isn't just one right way to do things or feel about a situation. Plus differences in personalities can actually help when it comes to dividing up responsibilities.

Divide up Responsibilities
Talk about what each sibling feels comfortable taking on. Some might enjoy taking their parents to appointments, while the other would rather run the errands, while yet another might be the financial whiz who would enjoy paying the bills. When everyone has a role, no one person is overwhelmed and it's a more productive and positive environment for everyone. Set a regularly scheduled time for all of the siblings to meet and check in to make sure everything is being accomplished. That way you will be accountable to each other.

Long Distance Support
Sometimes it's not possible for all siblings to physically be in the same location, but technology has made it easier for out-of-town siblings to stay involved – pay bills, talk with doctors and insurers, and research information.

Communication is key when working with siblings to care for your aging parents.

Talking to Your Parents About Moving

How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Moving
Talking to your loved ones about their future can be a delicate undertaking. It can feel uncomfortable to start looking after the people who once took care of you. Many people don't want to consider moving until pushed by life-changing circumstances — whether an illness, the loss of a spouse, or the demands of home maintenance. Regardless of the motivation, talking to your loved ones about a move requires a certain level of sensitivity.

Here are a few thoughts to help your loved ones better understand the benefits of a move.

The Earlier, the Better
What's the first thing many older adults say when asked if they're interested in moving to a retirement community? "I'm not ready yet!" And what's the most common thing they say once they move to a community? "I wish I'd done this 10 years ago!"

So start your discussions early. Use anecdotes or personal events as a catalyst for discussion. Even if your parents say they "aren't ready yet," opening the lines of communication will plant a seed and lay the groundwork for future discussions.

Be Positive
Answer their concerns with positives. If they say they aren't ready to downsize, explain that a smaller residence will give them the freedom to focus on doing things they want to do instead of things they have to. Home repairs and housework will be things of the past. A whole new array of interesting pastimes and new friends will await. Wellness programs will keep them at their best. Trips to shopping destinations and restaurants will be everyday events.

Encourage them to make a decision when they have the power to determine their future — and enjoy all the amenities a community might offer. By waiting, they limit their options — and risk leaving the decision to someone else.

Explain, Don't Tell
Help your loved ones understand the differences between various retirement living options, including a Continuing Care Retirement Community like Friendship Village. Share your concerns about their future, but don't tell them this is what they should do. It is ultimately their decision, and pressuring them is not likely to yield good results.

Back It Up with Information
Don't just tell your loved ones they should consider moving, show them how it can benefit them. Do your research. What kind of community would best suit their preferences — and pocketbooks? Would they prefer a community grounded in a religious tradition? A brand new community or an established one with a good reputation? What best suits their financial goals — a refundable entrance fee, a rental arrangement, or a life-care plan? Check out the amenities, the contracts and the promise of care. If a Continuing Care Retirement Community is an option, look for one that's accredited by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission.

Some communities — like Friendship Village — may guarantee your parents a home for life and discounts on care services, while others are pay-as-you-go. Some include access to different levels of care, while others may require your loved ones to move elsewhere if they ever need additional help. There's a lot to learn, and you can help them make sense of all the choices. Call the communities you want to explore for a tour and request a brochure. Check out their Web sites to learn more. You can tell a lot about an organization by how it presents itself.

Regroup and Reevaluate
If your loved ones are adamantly opposed to even exploring a move, agree to disagree. Then review your approach. Would the idea of moving be more palatable coming from someone else? Consider talking to one of their trusted friends or advisors about your concerns. Perhaps the friend could invite your loved ones to accompany him or her when they visit a community. Or, maybe the advisor could help your loved ones understand the financial or lifestyle benefits of making a move. Another possibility: Ask a Residency Counselor at a community to invite your loved ones to lunch and a tour at the community. Most will be more than happy to perform this service for you.

Respect Their Decision
Your loved ones could choose to move right away, or they may never agree unless circumstances force them into change. Regardless, it's important to respect their decision. Your relationship with your loved ones is more important than being right. Another opportunity for discussion could be right around the corner.

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