How to Share Caregiving and Not Ruin Your Sibling Relationships

August 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm Leave a comment

Caregiving isn’t meant to tear your family apart, but sometimes it feels like it might.

 Here are some of the concerns caregivers share with me at conferences:

“I’m so angry at my brother. He won’t lift a finger to help.”

“Both of my parents have Alzheimer’sand need caregiving, but my sister doesn’t see it.”

“Our oldest brother is the Durable Power of Attorney, and he controls the finances and won’t share any information. We’re not after our parent’s money, but we have a rigt to know what’s going on.”

“I’m so disgusted with my siblings over how they’ve acted about our parent’s will that I want nothing to do with them.”

How do you notlet caregiving issues go this far?

  • Talk early and talk often.Don’t wait until your parents are in need of daily care to begin to discuss your caregivingoptions. By then, you’re scrambling. Run different scenarios. Speak up. If you want to be the one who coordinates or does the day-to-day care, then say so–but insist that the other siblings pitch in–financially, emotionally, helping with household duties or giving you adequate respite care. If you don’t want to manage your parent’s physical care, say so! You do have a choice–but you need to recognize that there is some level of responsibility involved–and you can offer other alternatives.
  • Accept right now that no one is going to do things your way.Your siblings (like everyone else in the world) have an opinion, and most likely, it won’t be exactly like yours. Respect this. Listen and don’t overreact. Go into caregiving with an open mind.
  • Respect each other and vow to stay a family. If your family’s intention is to work through issues that arise, you’ll be much more likely to come to a place of compromise and understanding.
  • Keep the “main thing” the main thing. Your goal as a son or daughter is to make sure that your parents are cared for properly–that they’re safe, honored, and their physical and emotional needs are met to some extent (you won’t be able to do it all, I promise you that). If the “main things” stay front and center, then you’re on track as a family. Yes, there will be lots of gaps and loop holes, but if safety, health, and proper care get met–you’re doing great as a family. How these goals get met are negotiable.
  • What would your parents want? Do you really think they want their care to be the demise of the family? I doubt that. Even dysfunctional families (meaning all of us) want their children to get along. Try your best to honor the fact that your parents want peace–for all of you. Forgive. Try again. Try to communicate clearly. Take a deep breath. Bite your tongue before you say something destructive–and remember that most people are just scared and hurt more than mean and selfish.
  • When all else fails (yes, there are a few mean and selfish people in the world), then dig deep and do what’s right. Just make sure you’re not myopic and stubborn. It’s easy to believe you’re so right. When in doubt, ask a mediator to step in and give everyone some perspective.

I didn’t have any siblings to help out, but I’ve seen so many people hurt over the issue of sibling caregiving than over caregiving itself. Perhaps it’s so hard because we expect–and hope–that caregiving will bring us together, not tear us apart. But as in all of life, it’s a choice two people must make.

Entry filed under: caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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