Caregiving and Family Dynamics

with Barbara Rose,

NaviGuide, United Church Homes

This week on Ask a NaviGuide, host Michael Hughes welcomes Barbara Rose, one of our NaviGuides at United Church Homes. In this conversation, Mike and Barbara talk about family dynamics in caregiving. Topics include how to have conversations with siblings and family about the need for care for a loved one, knowing how aging progresses and seeing signs, how to handle transitioning a loved one to a care facility, and more.
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Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • How Barbara got into working as a NaviGuide (1:03)
  • Approaching caregiving conversations with siblings and family (2:57)
  • Dealing with conflicts in care conversations (4:55)
  • Knowing how aging progresses and stepping in to help (7:02)
  • Assisting a loved one with everyday tasks around their home (12:25)
  • Handling tough conversations in transitioning a loved one to a care facility (13:23)
  • The vulnerability of a loved one in need of help (18:37)
  • Advice for those taking the first step in talking about the care of a loved one (20:20)


Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit


Michael Hughes 00:07
Hi everybody, and welcome to this episode of Ask a NaviGuide, part of the Abundant Aging Podcast Series. I’m Mike, your host, and on this show we tackle subjects in aging and family caregiving that can be stressful to work through. And we do this with tips and advice from United Church Homes’ NaviGuide team. Our NaviGuides collectively have decades of experience helping families work through stressful issues and aging and health and whatever you can think about. And we hope that what we share in the show will help you if you’re dealing with issues the first time or an ongoing issue or really to help everyone everywhere age with abundance. Today, we’re lucky to have our NaviGuide Barbara with us that will help us understand family dynamics when you’re having a loved one that needs more help with family dynamics and family caregiving. But before we get started, I’m going to read this statement. The opinions shared in this podcast are those of our amazing NaviGuides and our hosts, and are not meant to convey nor take the place of clinical legal or other professional advice with all that being said, Hello, Barbara. Good to see you. Yeah. So Barbara, you’re a NaviGuide with United Church Homes. Just briefly, can you explain what that is and how you found yourself in the role?

Barbara Rose 01:18
Well, I love helping people. So I think that’s what navigated me to this position. And I find it very rewarding. Challenging. I learned something new every day. And I just love helping people.

Michael Hughes 01:37
You’re being so modest. You have I know you have over 80 residents that you take care of two buildings, two separate counties. You know, we’re taking care of people at home, your source for information in your community, because everyone comes to you, right?

Barbara Rose 01:53
That’s correct. Because I live in a very small village. Yes, yes.

Michael Hughes 01:57
Right. Sure. And we talked on the last show, I mean, you’re helping people with hospital discharges one day making an appointment, the next finding them a good food program, or just listening in and just kind of keeping track and just paying attention to people you think that may need to check in, right?

Barbara Rose 02:14
That’s correct. I guess I’m known as the head bugger. Because of my people all the time, and especially if I don’t see them, I’m always concerned about their health and well being. If they have food, if they’re eating. Most people in my buildings have plenty of food, but it’s whether they’re eating or not. And, and if they’ve seen their family if that you know just how they’re feeling that day.

Michael Hughes 02:49
Yeah, you know, and in our last episode, please check it out on abundance agent In our last episode, we just talked about, you know, sort of knowing the signs of someone that may need a little bit more help or may need to check in, right? And in this episode, we want to talk more about families and family dynamics. So let’s say let me put a scenario to you. Right? We talked about how you open conversations with people, right? But let’s say I’m, you know, I’m noticing that mom needs more help. And or maybe I’m just thinking that things are off. And maybe I’m the person that’s seeing my mom the most. And now I gotta kind of flag this to my siblings or other people that I would think would be involved in her care, or want to help. So how do I broach? I mean, how do I start that conversation with my brother, my sister, whomever just about, hey, I think my mom needs more help.

Barbara Rose 03:46
Well, that’s a great way to start it out is to just say I’m observing mom. And things are the way they were. And I think we need to step in and help her out so that she can stay independent. And we may need that. We may need to get help here to pay for help. Or we may need to just schedule all of the siblings to do certain errands, mow the grass, wash the windows, things that you know mom likes done, that she can no longer do. And so we need to either divide that up amongst ourselves or get a budget together and find out what we can afford to have hired to do. This could even be her staying at home, remodeling the bathroom, getting a walk in shower, grab bars, durable medical equipment can or walk or get through the bathroom door. All kinds of things like that need to be discussed.

Michael Hughes 05:04
Let me ask you this, though. Have you ever had a situation where because I’m thinking you have to, I mean, the most important person in this equation is the person that you think needs assistance, right? I mean, there’s probably a lot of things that are working for them in their lives. It’s just that they may need to help with specific things. And I know that we have to kind of meet them where they are, and really see things from their perspective. Here’s the thing, let’s say, I’m, you know, I see my mom a lot. Do I talk to my mom first? And then talk to my son? Or have you ever seen a situation where, you know, I’m kind of talking to my mom about what she wants? And then I go back to my siblings and say, Hey, I just have this need to talk to Mom, this is what she wants. And the siblings are like, Oh, no, or there’s just, or why did you talk to mom without us? You know, that sort of thing? I mean, I guess, I guess you’ve seen it all. I don’t know. But I just popped in my head.

Barbara Rose 06:00
Well, and I’ve also seen where no one wants to help. And oh, yeah, yeah. Or there’s one sibling that can help. In my case with my mother, I, uh, my sister did not have a healthy relationship with my mother. And she was like, I don’t want to just do whatever you want. I don’t care. Which was kind of an advantage, because at least I didn’t have a conflict. I just had all of the responsibility, which I was okay with that also. So that can happen. Or maybe someone would, or maybe a sibling would say, Well, I don’t feel comfortable given Mama’s shower, but I’ll come over and mow the yard. Oh, yeah. You know. So there’s all kinds of ways that you can divide up the responsibilities. And then again, if your mom lives out of state, you may have to hire a lot. So that’s an option also, you know, or even a couple hours away?

Michael Hughes 07:09
Yeah. And I think it’s, you know, when I think about when I think about a person as they age, I’m guessing that their needs may follow a decline in their function, or cognitive, and we talk a lot about cognition. But I think there’s also the situation where, you know, your parents are saying, oh, yeah, I’m going in to have this hip evaluated again, or, I got this or that. And I mean, at least for me, when I see that I’m always looking around for trip and fall hazards in the home and trying to pick that out. But I guess someone’s I guess you really need to understand someone’s not only understand their goals and where they want to be, but just understand how this condition might progress. And then what do you associate with it? You know, I’m a bad host on this.

Barbara Rose 08:02
Oh, well, like someone, I guess what you’re saying is that they have a few problems, but not ready for assisted living or a nursing home? You’ve just seen little things like maybe the kitchen floor is dirty, because they can’t mop. So that’s a simple fix. Get a housekeeper, you know, I mean, so I’m, if some things can just be taken care of quite easily on the physical end, you know, I mean, as such I can no longer mop. I can’t wash my Windows anymore. It hurts my back to vacuum. It is of that nature. That’s an easy fix for cognition, that’s much more difficult.

Michael Hughes 08:54
Yeah. But in that first situation, you know, what I’m worried about is that everyone will come in and start to say, what does mom need? What does dad need after an event already happens? You know, after that fall happens after the hospitalization when there’s a whole bunch of stuff leading up to that could be, you know, addressed if people just maybe talked about it. So, you know, for talking about, you know, somebody not being able to mop the floor anymore. Is the conversation about, oh, we need you to get you a bunch of help, because we can see into the future and or is it about, hey, let’s just find something that will allow you to mop or take that off your head. Yeah,

Barbara Rose 09:35
That’s exactly because nine times out of 10 it’s stressful and I love it now. It’s yeah, you know, and if you can just say, Hey, Mom, what just alleviates this problem. I’m going to get someone to come in here and mop your floors. I’m going to take your laundry home once a week, and I’m going to do your laundry so you don’t have to worry about that and You know, because it does stress them out when they know, they can no longer do the things they used to do.

Michael Hughes 10:09
That’s the thing. Yeah. I mean, we’re all our own people in our heads right from when we’re born the day that we leave this earth, and all we’re doing is encountering these problems. And we’re trying to work around them. But I guess there’s a lot of stigma out there around well, this says, I’m old, this says, my kids are gonna think I’m gonna have to be put into a home. Right? So, you know, opening up the conversation directly about something that may be more dramatic could just do more harm than good, I guess.

Barbara Rose 10:42
Well, for some reason, we don’t do anything. I don’t know why this is and I’m guilty of it. I’m guilty of that. Also, When my mother, I went there, morning, noon and night, and it wasn’t enough. It’s almost like we don’t do anything until there’s a catastrophe, I guess, is what I’m saying that I don’t know if that’s embedded in us to just kind of be in denial, because it’s our parents, or the community member that you look up to. And you think, Oh, my goodness, I don’t want to disrespect them by saying, hey, when’s the last time you changed your clothes? You know, or I noticed they’re high jeans. Not like it used to be my mother. I’ll give you an example of my mother. My nephew sings for the Columbus Symphony, and we were going, we were going to his event. And she had a Carhartt jacket and on to the symphony. And I don’t know if everybody knows what the car is, but it’s an outer corner. Yeah, it’s outerwear. It’s not something you’ve met, my mother would normally wear to the symphony, she would have worn her good coat or a Shah or a stole or something like that. And that’s difficult. Hey, Mom, why? Let’s change this. No, I want to wear this. And so I took her to the symphony in her car and hurt Jack.

Michael Hughes 12:30
Right. Right. Because it’s not you who made it. It’s one of the things you’ve been saying. Like I love the example of Well, hey, I like mowing lawns, let’s, I’ll go over to mow the lawn. Because it seems to me you’re not talking about yourself as a person, your identity or whatever, you’re just talking about a situation or a limitation and how can I help you solve this limitation? Right? I mean, if somebody’s wearing the same color, it’s okay, I’m doing a load of laundry, can I do yours as well? Versus Why are you so unkept? Right?

Barbara Rose 13:07
Right? Exactly, exactly. Or, you know, Mom, you had those clothes on yesterday, let’s change them. You know, let’s freshen up, it’ll make you feel better.

Michael Hughes 13:23
Just thinking about back more to the sibling dynamics. And let me let’s go for an extreme example. Because I’m sure you’ve dealt with this. Let’s talk about memory care. So let’s say that, you know, you spend a lot of time with your loved one, or maybe your spouse, something is happening where you know that things are growing beyond your control. And that you’re really that memory care, or some sort of a community might be a better option. And, you know, let’s assume that, you know, maybe you’ve had some conversations with your loved one. And maybe they’re open to the idea, because we know, we have to meet people where they are. And if people want to age at home, there’s ways to do that. But sometimes you really need a facility. But then your brother says, No, that’s not my or over my debt or this is going to cost a lot of money management. How are those dynamics that you’ve seen before? I mean, those are not unusual.

Barbara Rose 14:17
Well, absolutely. I have seen those. I had a resident whose son didn’t want to put her in a facility and it was he who told me himself because of money. But I tried to explain, you know, your mom and dad worked really hard all of those years, so that this would be able to provide them with care. Yeah, it’s not going to go in your pocket, which is maybe what you thought it would but it’s for their care, you know, and yeah, yes, expensive. Bye. But when you are dealing with people with memory care issues, there’s always that safety factor involved. And they wander, and you don’t want them to get lost. That was the case with my mother, she needed 24/7 care, she needed to be in a unit where I knew she was safe. And it gave me great peace of mind, even though I didn’t want to do it. I could no longer do it and take care of my family and work.

Michael Hughes 15:33
I mean, it’s, you know, I guess it’s so funny. I mean, you’re putting yourself I mean, you, you seem to naturally be in this role of, I don’t know, peacemaker, or, you know, the person that’s kind of in between, what is it about you that that you think people trust? Or what, how do you have that? That you mean, because you’re very, you can be very assertive with these families and say, No, this is very practical. This is what they need. I mean, that’s, you know, that’s something that you just come to naturally, or is that something that you’ve had to kind of practice and build up? Well, I

Barbara Rose 16:07
I think it’s years of experience and working with families, and also getting to know them, but you have to, I carry myself, I am an honest person, I am honest with them. I am not a blabber mouth, I don’t go out in the community and tell everybody what’s going on, I believe in confidentiality to the 100th percentile. And you have to be respectful of what their goals are, and what their standards are. They not aren’t necessarily mine. But if they’re okay with it, that’s all that matters. And I listen, I try to listen, really well. And I also say right back to them, this is what I’m hearing, am I hearing this correctly? Because sometimes perceptions can go out the door, you know, so I always try to go, you know, say, Okay, I want to make sure that I am right here where you want me to be. And

Michael Hughes 17:22
So it’s, I mean, I think if they call it like, I know, in nursing school, they call it like the teach back method, like I taught, that’s actually also a pretty good skill for talking to doctors and other people that are involved in the care of your loved one, right? I don’t know if you’re nodding, but I,

Barbara Rose 17:40
but yes, exactly. Yeah,

Michael Hughes 17:43
it’s so I guess. So if you’re, that’s a good tip. If you’re in a doctor’s visit, or something like that, and the doctor is explaining something to you, or some drug or right regimen. That’s, that’s a good tip, you should kind of repeat it back to the doctor, this is what I heard, is this correct?

Barbara Rose 17:59
Absolutely. And I’m a great note taker, too. I take notes, because sometimes you don’t remember everything. And it’s, I think it’s also a good idea to have a couple people go so that you can kind of bounce things off one another. And also, the other person might hear something you didn’t hear or hear it in a different way. And so the more people involved, the better in the decision process, I think that it’s easier. And you are all meeting the same goal.

Michael Hughes 18:42
I had a question in my mind as we were coming up just around the whole family dynamic thing. And, you know, you’ve seen a lot, you’ve seen a lot of different situations. But I don’t know, it’s almost like, you know, you grew up with your mom, you grew up with your dad, and now you’re seeing them needing more help. And we want to understand their own goals and their perspectives. And we wouldn’t want to see them where they are. I mean, I guess for the first time for many people, you’re kind of seeing your mom and your dad as a human being as their own individual right?

Barbara Rose 19:20
In a vulnerable situation. And that dignity comes into play here because and you know, like showering for example, or toileting? Do you feel comfortable helping your father take a shower? Yes. You know, does he feel comfortable with that? And so you ask that question. Well, Dad, would you feel more comfortable with me doing that? Or do you want me to hire somebody? Would you feel more comfortable? Some people feel more comfortable with a stranger than with their daughter or son. I would be okay with either decision they made, but you know, try to get as much input that you can from your loved one, because it’s their wishes you want to match and make happen.

Michael Hughes 20:19
And I can’t get us. I think we’ll end on this less. Next question, sorry. Because I think what you do a lot when you’re dealing with families is saying, I am seeing something that is serious enough for me to call you and alert you about it. And, you know, if we’re in a family, and I’m calling a sibling and saying, I think mom needs help, or I need them, maybe you’re a neutral party. I mean, for me, they know all of my family history dynamics, and then they may be inclined to say, no, no, mom’s fine. That’s fine. You’re overreacting, blah, blah, blah, blah. Do you have any advice for people to kind of say, in a good way? No, I think this is serious. We should be talking about this. Now.

Barbara Rose 21:10
I would give examples. Like, I saw a mom, she forgot to put her teeth in. And Mom always has her teeth. So what do you think about you know, I’ve seen her do that. I see that she can no longer make coffee. She doesn’t know how to sell the coffee pot. And things like that. Really believe? And I just want what’s best for mom. And maybe you, maybe we both need to go in and do some observation. I can point out some more things. When’s the last time you saw Mom, when’s the last time you talk to her? I know you live a couple hours away. But maybe y’all to go spend three or four hours with her. I would like you to know your opinion also. I mean, oh, we’re in this together. Right.

Michael Hughes 22:12
Am I imagining things? Can you please come and verify this? That’s a great tip.

Barbara Rose 22:19
Yeah, exactly. Because, you know, you love your siblings, and I respect your opinion. Maybe I am a little bit paranoid because I work in a nursing home. You know, I was told that, you know, so I would, I would love to have your opinion and your take on it.

Michael Hughes 22:41
Well, I think that’s a great place to end for this episode. Barbara, thank you so much. And for our listeners, you’ve been listening to Ask a NaviGuide, which is part of the Abundant Aging Podcast Series brought to you by United Church Homes. If you’d like this week’s show, please like, share and subscribe on our YouTube channel, which is United Church Homes. And we want to bring you more of this great content. You can also find all of our podcasts on And leave us a comment while you’re there. What has been your experience with this topic? What tips can you share? What are the things would you like us to discuss on this show? We want to hear from you about this abundant aging A couple more URLs. For more information on the NaviGuide program, please visit us For more information about United Church homes, please visit And if you’re listening to this, hopefully in July, August and beyond 2023 We’ll have up and running which is our resource site. So thanks for listening. We will see you next time!