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Smoothing over family relationships

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Caregiving can sometimes upset the family balance.

Caring for someone close to you can strengthen family ties or, on the contrary, create or rekindle tensions. Here are a few tips on how to restore family balance, from family counseling to a directory of resources.

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Smoothing family relationships in the context of caregiving

We may be related, but we don’t always see things the same way! Taking care of someone close to you can strengthen family ties or, on the contrary, create or rekindle tensions.

Many decisions must be made to ensure the welfare of the person being cared for. How can we restore a satisfactory family balance? How can conflicts be managed, even if it can be a difficult and delicate process?

Here are a few tips to help you find your way, depending on your context and the specific nature of your situation as a caregiver.

Case studies

Examples of stress

You are the parent of a young adult with a developmental disability.

Your child refuses to get help.

You do the best you can, but you are still overwhelmed. Your child does not feel they need outside help. It is becoming very stressful. If your adult child refuses this support, the CLSC will not provide any services to them, as they are considered the client.

You are the spouse of a person living with Alzheimer’s.

Some of the person’s behaviours are causing conflict and leading to arguments.

You notice that the cognitive symptoms of the person you are caring for are getting worse. They follow you around the house, they are not able to perform tasks that seem simple to you, you are forced to repeat the same instructions over and over again. You feel that they are not listening, or even that they are doing it on purpose. You feel stressed, helpless, even harassed, and that’s when the tension starts to rise.

You are a daughter caring for a parent with a neurocognitive disorder.

You disagree with your siblings about the best way to care for your parent.

Judgments can be a source of conflict among siblings. On the one hand, you feel that your siblings are relying on you a little too much because “you’re a girl,” “you have more time, you don’t work,” “you have a better understanding of the medical field,” “you don’t have kids at home anymore,” etc. On the other hand, you feel that your sister could be a little more involved because, from your point of view, she has more time or ability than you to care for your charge.

Eight tips for smoothing over family relationships

Charlotte Beaudet, a Caregiver Support Helpline counselor at L’Appui pour les proches aidants, offers the following eight tips:

  1. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those around you. You don’t know all of their constraints and limitations. For example, your sister may not feel able to do more right now, or your brother may not be able to accept your parent’s condition;
  2. Take a step back. If the person you are caring for is following you around constantly, it may be because they are anxious and unable to express it. It’s not always clear which behaviour is due to the illness and which is not;
  3. Learn more about the disease to understand its progression, its effects on you and the person you are caring for. This way, you will know what to expect and can better prepare yourself;
  4. Look for useful tips for yourself. The I am a caregiver section is full of tips and the caregiver guides contain advice and strategies to make your role easier;
  5. Seek out training;
  6. Determine your own needs. You have control over what you can offer, not what others can do or what your ill family member wants;
  7. Communicate and clearly express your expectations to those around you. Communication is the first step in easing tensions. Verbalizing your needs will allow your siblings to better understand what you are going through. They will be more inclined to help you.
  8. Seek support! If you don’t know what to do or if the disagreements in your family are too great, you can get help from specialized organizations.

Questions and possible solutions

I would like other members of my family to do their part as well. How can I make this happen?

Not everyone in your family has the same abilities. Why not talk about this together at a family meeting? You can then discuss the needs, realities and dynamics of each family member, and the values you share with each other. If you cannot reach a consensus during this meeting to determine each other’s tasks, outside mediators can work with you.

Where can I find the resources?

You will find them in our Resource Directory. They offer a caring and non-judgmental space. They are there to help you move through the process, one step at a time, to help you find a good balance, always respecting your own limits.

Dealing with conflicts in our family is becoming complex, we have reached a dead end. What can we do?

Sometimes unresolved issues from the past resurface and prevent us from moving forward peacefully. You all want what is best for the person you are helping. Do not hesitate to seek help from the Caregiver Support Helpline or by contacting other telephone helplines. The situation may improve and the ties that bind you may become stronger.

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