Most brothers and sisters disagree from time to time, but nothing can test a sibling relationship like the challenges of caring for an aging parent. And when those siblings don’t see eye-to-eye on how to share the responsibility, the stress compounds. If you feel like you’ve been left alone as a caregiver, there are some actions you can take to help ease the burden and get your siblings more involved.
By planning ahead of time who is going to do what and when, you can remove a lot of the tension that accompanies divvying up caregiving tasks in the moment. Ideally, siblings can come up with a plan before the parent even needs it, so that when the time arrives, everyone is clear on their roles.
Chances are good that you’re already in the thick of things, however, and need to set guidelines for care. Hold a meeting, whether in person or over the internet via video conference or a shared document, in which you and your siblings can discuss who can provide which types of support. Having a plan in writing will help remove the emotional ups and downs of encountering every need and will provide structure to the tasks at hand.
The sibling who lives closest to an aging parent often becomes the default caregiver. What starts as a few drives to doctors’ appointments can quickly become a growing list of errands, phone calls, chores, and paperwork.
Siblings who live farther away, or who can’t get to your parent’s home as often because of work responsibilities or children, can get involved in other ways. Ask them if they can make phone calls, work with insurance and finances online, and research future housing options, all activities that can be done remotely. Find ways to help siblings play to their strengths and availability by assigning roles that fit them best. For example, your more task-oriented brother may prefer cleaning and organizing your mother’s kitchen while your conversational sister prefers reading books aloud or taking your mother on walks.
You may have tried planning, talking, and assigning roles, but still, your sibling isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. Or your relationship could be so strained from decades of negative family dynamics, that caregiving together in peace feels nearly impossible.
At some point, you may have to accept the fact that the situation with your sibling is not going to change and move forward with another plan. Consider enlisting the help of grown children, cousins, or other family members. Ask close friends to lend practical help and emotional support. It isn’t fair for your siblings to leave you alone with these responsibilities, but you also deserve to be free of the anger and resentment brought on by their lack of cooperation.
Taking care of an aging parent can be difficult, but there are ways to get the support you need. At Danbury, we treat our residents and their families like our own. View Our Services to learn more.