Caregiving with Siblings

Realizing that your parents are aging and can no longer take care of themselves can be frightening. If you are fortunate enough to have siblings who can help carry the responsibility of care, you should find the support and help you will need to make it through this difficult time. There are some things to keep in mind as you and your siblings embark on this adventure in life that will help keep your family together and most importantly, will ensure that Mom and Dad get the best care that can be given.

This is a Stressful Time for Everyone
Thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer but sometimes that means living longer with major health issues. There are no manuals or easy fixes for how to deal with caring for Mom over the next five to ten years or longer.

Just as you may be feeling overwhelmed, scared and a host of other emotions, your siblings are probably feeling many of the same emotions and more. This can be a great time to establish new relationships as you all come together with ideas for your caring for your loved one.

Understanding that you are all experiencing many different feelings, it is important to be compassionate with yourself and with your siblings.

Work Together as a Family
When the time comes that Dad needs help with living at home, this is a great time to hold a family meeting.  In your meeting, it is important to discuss what each sibling’s role will be in providing care and support. Be specific in scheduling each part you and your siblings will perform in caring for your parents and be clear about how the financial burdens will be compensated, if at all. You also need to discuss how the supporting tasks will be managed and by whom.

 

Your Needs and Mom’s Needs
It feels good to be providing an important part of your parent’s care and there may be times when you try to take on responsibilities that are not yours to provide. For example, happiness comes from within, so if you find yourself trying to make Mom happy, you are setting yourself and Mom up for disappointment.

What you can do is make sure that Mom is getting the best care that you and your family can provide and keep up a positive attitude while you are with her. Don’t try to do everything yourself or to be in control of everything. Learn to be flexible with the daily chores and let your siblings do their best without rivalry or criticism.

Choose Your Battles Wisely
It is not unusual for each sibling to have his or her own idea about how best to care for Dad and this can become a huge battlefield if not handled well. What works is to focus on the issue at hand and try to keep old emotions out of the mix. For example, if you find that a simple discussion about who will drive Mom to the doctor is becoming emotionally charged, step back and take a break so everybody can calm down. Then come back to just the task at hand. Be willing to give up some control so others can take part in the process.

Avoid making blanket statements about your perception of how much or little your siblings care about Dad and the care he is receiving. If they direct similar statements towards you, it might hurt, but again, remember that they are also feeling scared about losing Dad, so try to let it roll off rather than becoming defensive. This may even be a good time to let the offending sibling take the next month of care to show how to do it right, that is if they are responsible enough.

If your parents assigned their power of attorney or health decisions to someone else, let it be. They had their reasons for doing what they did and fighting for control can be destructive to the family. Better to leave it where it is, as long as they are receiving the care they need.

The same is true with finances and inheritance. Your parents had their reasons for setting up their will as they did and as long as there is not obvious abuse or manipulation happening, be mindful of the bigger picture that family, good relationships and happy memories will be more important in the long run than who got the expensive vase.

How to Gain More Support from your Siblings
Be Realistic. There are no perfect siblings and no perfect families. Wishing that your brother would take more responsibility or care more will not get him to do so. It will only frustrate you. Instead, look for their strengths and abilities that came out during your “interview” at the beginning of your family meeting and find tasks that are more in line with your siblings’ strengths. Keep in mind that each of you may have different feelings about the whole situation, so this is where compassion will go a long way in keeping the peace and taking care of Mom.

Acknowledge the Complexity of the Situation. Every person is different, including you and your siblings. Assuming that they feel exactly as you do or that they are uncaring if they don’t agree with your views is not fair to anybody in the family. Since you are all different, it makes sense that their relationship with Dad will be somewhat different than yours. If they seem to be critical of how you are handling the situation, look for cues that you can take to improve rather than becoming defensive.
Something else to consider is what you really need from your siblings. Do you want their help with caregiving or would you prefer to take care of Mom yourself, but with lots of support and affirmation from your siblings? Will they be in agreement with this scenario? Before you can ask for their help, you need to be clear with yourself about what you really need.

Be Mindful of How You Ask for Help. Trying to manipulate your siblings or making them feel guilty just doesn’t work. Keep a positive tone in your voice and be specific in what you ask. “Dave, can you please take Dad to his doctor appointment each Tuesday?” is more likely to get a positive response than, “I wish somebody here cared enough to help out!”

If you want your sister across the country to call you once a week to check in, then ask her to do that. She may also want to call Mom each day or so to check in. Ask her to do that. Don’t assume that your siblings know what you need but are withholding from you. They have their own lives and cannot read your mind, so be clear, specific and grateful. Be sure to thank them for the help and support they do offer, even if in your mind it does not seem like much. That may be all they are able to give. You don’t know everything that is going on in their lives and minds, either, so be brave enough to ask how they are doing and listen with your heart.

Ask for Outside Help. When you and your siblings are doing everything you can but Dad needs more help, that is time to seek outside help. Seek guidance from your parent’s doctor, geriatric social worker, or clergy about how to manage the care. This is a good time to search for in-home caregiving services like Home-Aid Caregivers, LLC.

We are flexible and will work with the schedule you have to fill in when you cannot be there for your parents. Our senior services can be provided in other settings such as hospitals, rehab centers, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and congregate living facilities.

Call us at (903) 533-1300 to schedule a free in-home consultation with one of our Home Aid Caregivers, Ltd..