In 2011, the baby boomers began turning 65, with around 8,000 of them following in their footsteps every day.
An estimated one in four households provides some type of caregiving responsibilities for a loved one in need.
But while a great deal of talk focuses on caring for a loved one who is a parent or a spouse, it’s more challenging to find resources about the specific needs of caring for a stepparent in the market. Every year, nearly half a million Americans over 65 remarry, which means many will fall into the role of providing care for a member of their stepfamily. Studies also show that stepchildren are more likely to create conflict and withhold support. Stepchildren are more likely to:
- Share unwanted advice
- Meddle in caregiving direction
- Provide little help and care on their own
- Become angry and provide critical comments
As a result, many caregivers in step situations feel virtually alone in their in-home caregiving tasks, often sinking into a deep depression.
One of the problems with many stepfamily situations is families simply don’t have an opportunity to bond as a combined family. And when stepparents and stepchildren don’t know each other well and have little in common to hold them together, it can make stressful situations that much worse.
Start With Family Meetings
In many cases, the caregiving role comes on slowly. A person slows down and can’t do all the things they used to. Help steps in gradually. As a person progresses into needing more care, that’s where chaos steps in, especially when no plan is in place. Getting the family together to discuss the details can be an essential step to alleviate tension.
Let everyone have their say. Let everyone share their thoughts and opinions. The best way to eliminate conflict is to bring everyone to the table and let them have their say on the best course of action. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver; everyone needs to provide the course of action that is right for them. Likewise, it’s equally essential for those that won’t fall into the caregiving role to realize they can help in other ways.
When necessary, bring in the third part to help level out tensions. For example, it may be a family friend or hire a social worker or another with mediation experience to help smooth the path. A third party with some connection to the family can provide insight and at the same time remain nonjudgmental about the course of action.
Keep your expectations realistic. If you’ve never agreed on things before, don’t expect change to occur overnight. Work on little things, one thing at a time. Don’t anticipate a solution to every problem you encounter. And accept the fact that not everyone will agree with the decisions; compromising will be necessary.
While having conversations about changing family dynamics can be daunting, finding common ground can prevent family wars and help create strife and heartache in an already stressful situation.