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In modern American families, the family unit is far more dispersed geographically than ever before. In addition, the number of potential caregivers in a family per aging adult is rapidly declining. These two realities of modern families, when paired together, create a difficult and often complicated dynamic for family caregiving.

Navigating care in a family setting is an already complicated endeavor. Disagreements over financial decisions, legal decisions, end-of-life procedures, quality and type of care, etc. are bound to exist in any family caregiving situation. In an enlightening live stream, the Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center dove into some common issues that families have in coordinating care.

Many of these familial issues stem from insufficient communication about what is needed and what is expected. Here are some notes to consider as you watch this live stream.

What is care?

First, let’s take a look at the definition of care. Caregiving does not only apply to people who provide physical care to the care recipient. Ultimately, caregiving can look different for everyone. Here are some examples of what tasks a caregiver may handle:

  • Support with physical needs. Fulfilling needs like dressing, bathing, feeding, etc. are what are most commonly considered care.
  • Support with financial needs. This may include offering financial support or giving help managing bills and finances.
  • Help with transport. Driving your loved one to and from doctor’s appointments or errands on a regular basis.
  • Accommodating them to doctor’s appointments. Keeping track of diagnoses, discussions, supplements, dosages, prescriptions, etc.
  • Emotional Support. Calling and checking in regularly – offering emotional support – is as necessary as physical support for the loved one in your care.

The Family Dynamics of Distance and Caregiving

There are three common scenarios that exist when it comes to family caregiving and distance.

  1. The primary caregiver lives far away.
    Sometimes the primary caregiver lives far away from the care recipient. In fact, “more than 7 million people in the United States live at least one hour away from the person for whom they provide care.” – Elder Care Management

    This creates complicated logistics, scheduling and emotional difficulties, and fear over the uncontrollable while living far away (i.e., emergencies).
  2. The primary caregiver ends up being the person who lives closest.
    With the dispersal of individuals within the family, sometimes geographical location alone ends up determining who will provide primary care.

    This puts a lot of strain on familial relationships as the members of the family unit that are located further away feel more disconnected from the responsibility of care. This makes coordinating family meetings, keeping family in the loop, and sharing responsibility more difficult.

    The primary caregiver, on the other hand, may feel abandoned or as if they are expected to provide all care regardless of their own personal responsibilities.
  3. Siblings share responsibilities.
    Often adult siblings for example share responsibilities in providing care. There are many stressors and different levels of burden that this cooperation can create.

    According to this study on families and caregiving, one of the most difficult parts of shared caregiving responsibilities is the feeling of losing control of your life and schedule. Coordinating dynamic care responsibilities and schedules alongside full-time work, personal responsibilities (like children), etc. is an ongoing issue for many families in this situation.

Watch the Complexity of Modern Families Livestream

These are just some of the complications that have spawned as a result of the complexity of modern families. According to research conducted by the Journal of Advanced Nursing, these complicated family dynamics can negatively impact the caregiver and the care recipient. To prevent any negative repercussions of complicated family dynamics, we recommend listening to the recent live stream by the Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center which explores these issues in-depth and offers solutions:

Keeping the Peace: The Complexity of Modern Families

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