Why you might want to talk

Relationship dynamics can be complex. We may make assumptions about each other and what our different roles should be. Different opinions can cause tensions when organising care or making plans with or for an older friend or relative. However, it’s helpful to talk about how you can share caregiving responsibilities or get extra support if you need it.

There can be many reasons why this is a difficult conversation. Lack of time, living far away or just not wanting to face the situation can stop you talking. Other issues might include:

  • old conflicts coming back up
  • having a family of your own to worry about
  • expectations related to cultural background
  • resistance to what seems like a role reversal
  • not wanting the responsibility
  • the difficulty of being involved in personal care for a close friend or relative
  • feeling sad about the changes in your friend or relative’s needs.

On the plus side, if you have these discussions you can:

  • know that you're making the right choices with or for your friend or relative
  • understand what they want
  • share the responsibility
  • avoid future conflict by planning ahead, for example, by setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney.

People say to me, 'you should be talking to your sister. She should be more involved'. But she's not that approachable.

When to talk

If you start talking early – and talk often – these conversations can become a normal part of discussion. It’s also a good idea to involve other family members or friends early and talk about what you can each do to help. You can always change the caregiving arrangements later if necessary.

How to start the conversation

If you’d like someone else to be more involved, because you’re providing the majority of care or think your friend or relative needs more support, ask directly for help. Remember:

  • don’t assume other people don’t want to help
  • be specific about what you want
  • listen, as well as talk
  • divide up the tasks – for example, if someone can’t help with care, ask them to do some research instead
  • don’t expect total equality of caregiving and separate your issues from the ones of the person you're caring for.

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open. For example, you could share updates on medication, hospital appointments or care plans. Keeping others up-to-date could help them be more involved. But make sure you ask the person you’re caring for about who they want to share their information with first.

Be honest about what you can do and what you're prepared to do. It may be that paid for care is the best option. Don’t feel guilty – you’re only human and there are limits to what you can do. Getting paid for care may help with the practical parts of caring for someone, and let you focus on other areas like emotional support.

If another person involved in caregiving is making decisions you don’t agree with, you could bring this up sensitively with them and offer to help. They may be under pressure. You could also suggest involving a third party, such as a GP or social worker.

I should have organised it with my brother. We did have a bit of a family argument when we should have had conversations over it.

Look at your options

It's a good idea to look into what support might be available for your friend or relative, as well as for yourself if you're a carer. You could consider:

Getting a care assessment

A good place to start is to get a care needs assessment for your friend or relative. You can contact their local council to request one with their permission, or they can request one themselves. This can give you an objective basis for any decision-making.

You may also be able to get your own carer’s assessment to look at your needs as a carer.

Checking on benefits entitlement

If they agree, you could check if the person you're caring for can get any benefits. You could also check for yourself if you are a carer.

As a first step, look at:

If you need advice or would like a benefits check, call our Helpline.

Other support available

If your friend or relative has a long-term condition, they may be able to get support from charities and organisations that deal with their condition.

Other options you could consider include:

  • home care agencies
  • live-in carers
  • day care
  • short-term residential care
  • respite care.

Some of these services might be provided by the council after having a care assessment, and they may charge for them. You or your friend or relative may also be able to get these services privately. See our Paying for care pages for more information.

It might also help you and your fellow carers to talk to your friend or relative about getting a Lasting Power of Attorney in place while they still have mental capacity.

If your friends or family don't agree

Sometimes if there are disputes around caring for someone, bringing in an outsider can help. This could be a GP, solicitor, financial adviser, clergy member or a social worker. They may be able to offer impartial advice, guidance or expert knowledge which could help resolve the disagreement.

Next steps

If you are a carer and need more support, contact the Carers Trust to find out about local services.

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