Making a Smooth Transition
Having a loving, trusting relationship with your parents can make it easier to transition to assisting them with their daily activities and care or making decisions for them. Even so, it may not always be smooth sailing. If your relationship hasn't been good, it can be difficult at best. If you have issues with your siblings, this can be a rough time as well.
Changes can bring out the worst in people, and even the closest, trusting relationships can become strained as you move into new and uncharted territory. Be prepared to hit bumps in the road and even to be blindsided. Be realistic that you are not going to change your parents. The same traits they had that annoyed you growing up are still there, and may even be amplified by aging and illness.
Old sibling rivalries that you thought were long dead and buried can rear their ugly head at the most unexpected times. This can come either directly from something your siblings say or do now, or through something a parent says or does to remind you of those rivalries.
You may have been spending every free moment taking care of your father after a minor surgery, only to have him say how wonderful it was for your sister to come and visit last week. She just showed up and then went outside and cleaned up the dog poop and the leaves that had accumulated on the porch from the recent windstorm. He was so impressed because she just did it without being asked.
You've been cooking and cleaning and changing his bandages and helping him bathe every day for three weeks and he never even says thank you, but your sister shows up one day and she's the big hero. Ouch!
He undoubtedly appreciates everything you've done as well, but it's something he's grown to expect, and unfortunately, take for granted. Your sister is not his primary caregiver and he sees her visits in a different light. Instead of getting angry, use this to your advantage. When things get to be too much for you, take a break and get your sister to visit more or to call more and distract him. You'll know he's okay, and you can take time to replenish yourself.
If you had a strained relationship with your mother and now you have to care for her, you're going to have to let it go. You may be able to talk to her about your feelings, but you don't want to make things harder for yourself. She did the best she could under the circumstances. Now you have the opportunity to take the high road and provide her something better than she gave you. Perhaps through the experience you'll have a chance to get to know each other in a different way and gain insight into why things were they way they were. Don't expect miracles, just take a deep breath, and do the best you can.
As she faces the last years of her life, try to find some common ground and develop a new relationship. If not, think of her as a friend or neighbor and not your mother.
Remember that your primary goal is to help your parents and in-laws remain as independent as possible and not to just take over and do. This will definitely take time and more patience than you ever thought you had. Help them do for themselves; make them a part of all of the tasks you do for them.
Your dad may not know how to cook, but he can set the table or perhaps do some of the prep work under your supervision. Mom might need some help with the laundry, but she can sit on the couch and fold the clean clothes or match up the socks. Don't do it all. Yes, indeed it will go faster if you do, but the more you do for them, the more dependent they will become and the more you will have to do.