Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities with Another Family

Learn how families can share care for their elderly or disabled relatives.

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Caring for an elderly or disabled adult can be exhausting and sometimes lonely, particularly if you are the only family member available to provide care. By sharing, you can get some help and companionship from others in the same situation.

How to Find Others to Share Care With

To share the care of an elderly or disabled relative, you'll need to find another family or person who needs care, lives relatively nearby, and has needs that are at least somewhat similar to yours. That way, you will be better able to share the caregiving responsibilities equally.

Finding others to share or cooperate with is easy to do in retirement communities and senior cohousing, but elsewhere it requires a more concerted search effort. Contact your local senior services agency or senior center to find out whether it has a message board or other means of communicating with other families. And ask around among your friends, neighbors, and co-workers—perhaps one of them knows someone who would be a fit.

Tasks You Can Share When Caring for a Senior or Disabled Relative

There are many tasks you can share to ease burdens for the caretaker and those receiving care, including:

  • Cooking and meal delivery. You can work with other families to cook for each other's relatives on a rotating schedule.
  • Transportation and carpooling. You can share driving to medical appointments, activities, or simple errands that require transportation. If your family members have shared activities, such as day care, physical therapy, exercise classes, or events and lectures at the local senior center, you can even set up a carpool.
  • Errands. You can trade off buying groceries and doing other errands for your family members.
  • Household chores. Basic cleaning and other chores can be challenging for an elder or person with disabilities who is otherwise able to live alone. Instead of doing all the chores for your family member each week, you can agree to a rotating schedule of chores with your fellow sharers. You'll end up doing double the work on the day that you're responsible for the chores—but the next week, you'll get the day off. Of course, you could also share the cost of hiring someone to do chores at both homes.
  • Companionship. Many elders who live alone wish that they had more contact with other people from day to day. Volunteers may be available to visit people in their homes. Often, however, the problem isn't a lack of potential companions, but an inability to physically get together. If the person you care for has friends or other family nearby, you could help set up an ongoing social event, rotated among your homes. For example, each family might host a bridge night or an afternoon get together, with arrangements to share transportation to and from the gathering.
  • Respite care. Perhaps you don't want to enter into a full sharing arrangement that covers the majority of your caregiving time, but you need an occasional break from your responsibilities. You can trade with another caregiver on a rotating basis, taking your charge to the other person's house to give you a day off, and then returning the favor when asked. You could do this ad hoc, or according to a set schedule.

For more information on elder care, check out Elder Care Link, which has information, articles, and links to elder care providers.

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