Being a caregiver sometimes falls to one member of a family. Often, it's the one who lives closest to their parents. But if you're far away, you can still provide support to your sibling in a variety of ways. Just make sure you avoid saying these five things.
I Wish I Could Help
It's so easy to check out when you're far away, but regardless of where you're located there are still things you can do to help. Resist the urge, however, to tell your sibling that you wish you could help.
Not only is this extremely annoying for the person who's doing the work in caring for mom or dad, it sounds a bit arrogant and removed. Instead, ask, "What can I do to make things easier for you?" You might be surprised at how much you can lend a hand from far away.
Some ideas include:
- Just talking on the phone and letting your sibling vent about their day.
- Sending them a small gift from time to time to acknowledge their effort.
- Helping to pay for costs like groceries, haircuts, and clothes.
- Taking a vacation so you can be the primary caregiver and then giving them a week off.
I Don't Think Mom Is That Bad
There's always a little bit of denial when our parents age, but if your sibling tells you that your mom or dad need more help with getting dressed, remembering things, cooking meals, and the like, it's time to listen.
Instead of arguing with your sibling, remain silent so you can fully absorb what is being said. Even if you don't see some of the symptoms they describe when you make an occasional visit, trust that they are telling the truth and understand the situation a little bit better than you do.
If you don't think your sibling is being truthful, or is reading the situation incorrectly, address this by saying, "I know that you want the best for mom and so do I, but I'm confused by some of the things you're talking about. Can we meet with the doctor together so I can get a better understanding of where things are?"
Then, schedule an appointment with your sibling and a physician or social worker so you'll have a third party to help explain things.
When Did This Start?
You'd be surprised at how much you miss when a sibling is talking. Perhaps you glaze over the smaller details, and when they tell you something that is really big, you're caught off guard. If what your sibling tells you catches you by surprise, take a moment to fully accept the reality of what's happening with your parents.
I Can't Help Because I'm Caring For...
Never think that it's okay for you not to help with your parent's care. So if you cared for your in-laws and think that absolves you from lending a hand with your own mother or father, think again. When your sibling is doing most of the work in caring for your parents, the last thing they need to hear is why you think you're exempt from helping.
Call Me Before You Make a Decision Like This Again
If you're not around, your brother or sister is going to have to make decisions about your parent's care. That's the trade-off you accept when you decide to live farther away from your parents (and yes, it is a choice.) If you disagree with a decision that's been made, think back to the talks you've had with your sibling.
Perhaps they have tried to tell you the situation honestly and you didn't believe it. Now that life choices have to be made (putting your parent in a nursing home, for example), you need to trust that your sibling is acting in your parent's best interests.