When caring for aging parents, old arguments and resentments we might have had with our siblings over the years can come up. What's more, we may fall into the same role we had growing up: the responsible one, the independent one, etc. If caring for your parents has fallen squarely on your shoulders, it can feel very lonely and frustrating.
Getting your siblings involved is not always easy. This is especially true if they live farther away and don't see the level of commitment that goes into caring for your parents. They might think it's "no big deal" when in fact it takes a lot of time and emotional energy. Here's how to get your siblings to help you out when caring for mom and dad seems to fall on you.
Explain What's Involved in the Routine
Rather than saying, "I need to check on mom every day," explain that you need to drive to your parent's house, make dinner, check her mail, balance her checkbook, make sure she's been able to keep up with her personal hygiene, and any other tasks that need to be completed. Provide your siblings the details of what is involved, how long it really takes, and how it makes you feel.
Ask for Help
Sometimes the care of a parent seems to fall to one sibling, and the others quietly just accept this. But it doesn't have to be this way. A parent's care should involve all the siblings in whatever way they can help. It is helpful to draft a visual schedule so your siblings can see the amount of work that needs to be done. When you come up with a visual plan, ask them where they can lend a hand. Then, mark their name down for that task and redistribute the schedule once again. This might seem like you are going back to the old days when you each had a note on the refrigerator that listed your chores, but sometimes this can help your siblings understand where they have dropped the ball on helping out.
If Your Siblings Refuse to Help
When a parent needs care, some siblings in a family fail to see the big picture. Bottom line, it doesn't matter who got along with who, or what was said in the past. The important thing is having everyone involved in caring for your folks. If your siblings refuse to take responsibility for the overall care or individual tasks involved with mom and dad, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Don't drag up the past. It's easy to say, "You were always the flighty one" or "You never did hold up your end of the chores," but verbally attacking your sibling will only push them farther away, even if what you are saying is true.
- Acknowledge that the overall care plan has fallen to you, but that you plan to make sure everyone helps. Keep reminding them on what needs to be done and that you expect them to help.
- If your brother or sister refuses to even acknowledge that mom and dad do need help, state your case backed with factual events. Say, "Mom's doctor confirms that it's time to get round-the-clock care," or "Dad hasn't been able to bathe himself and I can't lift him on my own."
- Ask for their suggestions. Say, "Mom needs someone there with her from seven in the morning until eleven in the evening, which shift would you like to take? Or what is your suggestion on how we can get coverage?"
If Your Siblings Live Far Away
Sometimes a sibling feels like they are "off the hook" when it comes to caring for aging parents if they live far away. That isn't the case. Let your brother or sister know that despite living away from the area, you would like them to:
- Provide an emotional sounding board.
- Help out financially.
- Take an occasional week-long vacation where they care for your parents while you take a break.
- Give you their support with the decisions you need to make.
Caring for your aging parents doesn't have to drive a wedge between you and your siblings. By addressing the issues head on, you can actually end up closer than you were before.