My Siblings Won’t Help Out and I’m the Lone Caregiver

December 1, 2009 at 5:58 pm 10 comments

Sometimes you feel like you’re a lone caregiver–especially when your siblings won’t pitch in. With so much to do–errands, hospital stays and physical therapy,  prescription and insurance issues no wonder it feels like your head is spinning. Add on top of that day-to-day frustrations  and relationship concerns, and you may find yourself vacillating between tears and screams. How do you not harbor hurt and angry feelings toward your sibs when they refuse to help out?

There’s no one magic solution. Every family is different, but I do know that arguing about it probably won’t get you anywhere.

5 Tips to Encourage Your Siblings to Help with Caregiving:

  • Give them something specific to do. Ask for one consistent thing–that they take your parent to one appointment a month, the same one so that it ‘s easy to remember. Ask clearly for their help. If they don’t help out, ask why. Remind them that their parent’s care is meant be shared. .
  • Let them throw money at it. So they’re not into hands-on caregiving. Then let them contribute in other ways. Ask them to pay for a housekeeper twice a month, or lawn work. Ask them to pay for respite care once every three months. Give them something ongoing that gives you the most relief–or that it’s something they value or would like to get noticed for.
  • Focus on relationships first. Don’t be petty and try to isolate your loved one and in turn “punish” them by not allowing them to see their other children. You might not like that they’re not participating, but your mom or dad needs all of their children. They don’t need to be aware of sibling spats, not when they’re dealing with cancer, dementia, heart disease, or some other catastrophic illness. Encourage your siblings to spend time with their parent regardless of what they do–or don’t do.
  • Choose not to fall into the vortex of resentment and anger. Give to your loved one wholeheartedly. Let go of what someone else does or doesn’t do. If they still refuse or avoid, then start to make other plans. Utilize community resources, church and neighbors are often willing to pitch in. Be grateful for those who choose to help. Your thoughts and energy are better spent on good thoughts than chewing on the bone of what somebody else should do. In the end, we’re only responsible for our own actions.
  • Realize that many people are scared of caring for someone who sick or is dying, so help them get over it. We’re afraid of what we don’t know. It may look like your sibs are selfish and lazy, but it may also be that they don’t know what to do to help. They may feel pushed aside. They may have created all these barriers–I’m busy, I have too much on my plate already, you’re doing it so well why should I bother–in order to not face what’s painful or uncomfortable . Don’t make caregiving look so miserable! Invite them over to hang out. Have a pizza and movie night. Give them time to warm up to the idea. Give them something small to do and then don’t micro-manage them. Caregivers (and I mean me here) tend to be controlling–it comes with the territory–and we tend to be perfectionists. No wonder they don’t want to get involved. Learn to make it easy and inviting (even when parts of caregiving are clearly not–you dont want to scare them away).

I can’t promise that your brothers and sisters will ever come around. Some don’t. Then it’s your job to pace yourself and find others to help support you and your loved ones. It may not be ideal, but you may find a different kind of community/family to surround yourself with. We can’t control what others choose to do. Decide that you’re caregiving largely because you want to and you believe it’s the right thing to do. Once you start to let go of the “shoulds” your load somehow gets lighter.


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

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cheryl  |  December 2, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I am the “lone caregiver” – my dad is in NC and my brother is in CA. The key is to appreciate whatever they do. My brother cannot handle dressing, cleaning, daily stuff. But, he will come across the country in a heartbeat to help with lawn work or other boy stuff. And then he leaves and its just me again. Be grateful for any moment of respite you get. Don’t expect others to have the same ability to care-give as you have – it just is not fair. care-giving is not like taking out the garbage . . . it is not a task that just anyone can do!!

    The ability to give selflessly of yourself for someone else is an indication of your character and it is a gift from God. Just remember to ask God for peace and strength. And all care-givers should be very proud of themselves for their strength and God given gift!

    • 2. Steve  |  December 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Cheryl,
      I so agree–caregiving isn’t a list of duties, it’s part of a relationship. What you have to give–encouragement, insight, support, and just plain ole’ love is the greatest gifts caregivers possess.
      Thanks for reading.

  • 3. nauri  |  December 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    I am so lucky that my brother handles all the financial things – I’d go crazy trying to figure them all out. I get to do the other day to day things and often wish he’d do more of those, but all in all the role I play in the care of my Mom and Dad is one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

    • 4. Steve  |  December 8, 2009 at 9:22 pm

      It’s so great when families figure out how to care give as a team. Each person contributes something slightly different. Like you, I wouldn’t trade the years I had with my mom for anything. They were challenging, yes–but also deeply rewarding.
      Thanks for reading,

  • 5. laurie  |  December 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    I’m not so lucky. My 4 brothers leave everything to me; the financial, day to day caregiving, emotional support, everything.

    What’s worse is when I ask them to do anything, even the manly things such as fixing things, they not only refuse they get downright hostile and even call me horrible names. Yesterday I got so angry that I hit back verbally and it really escalated downwards.

    I’ve realized that in order to do everything that needs to be done that I will have to sell assets to pay for the help I’m not getting from my brothers, which just makes me angrier because that’s putting my own future at risk.

    I’m at the point where I want to walk away and not do anything to see if the slackers will let our mother rot away or will they do something if I’m not there.

    • 6. Steve  |  December 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm

      Hi Laurie,
      I’m so sorry that you don’t feel respected or supported for what you do. Too bad there’s not a parent-support law similar to child support!
      I hope you’ll check with ALL of your community based resources to get help before you jeopardize your own future. Make lots of calls to senior centers, the Council on Aging, Elder Afffairs, and to any caregiving support groups near you–they’ll have a list of area agencies that might be able to help. Do all you can to protect your health (including your financial health) because let’s face it, who’s going to be there for you?
      You’re going to have to be your own best cheerleader. Tell yourself often that what you do matters.

    • 7. Steve  |  January 25, 2010 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Laurie,
      I know you’re disgusted and disappointed in your brothers, but walking away will only hurt you and your mom. They may not “rise to the occasion”–ever. I try to see it as their loss. You have had time with your mother. You have learned more about yourself, your family, your character than you would under just about any other circumstance. Your mother is teaching you how to age, and even how to die–by what she does well, and what you might choose to do different.
      I have had to learn to let go and realize that I give people too much power by dwelling on them. They’re taking my precious time and thoughts, and I’m only growing more hurt and resentful. I don’t want that to be a part of me. So, I have to wish them no harm and let life teach them their lessons. What else can we do?
      Your mom needs and deserves your care. Pour your energies into her–and into your one amazing life!

      I do hope this helps.
      ~Carol O’Dell

  • 8. laurie  |  December 9, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    It’s been difficult, but I’ve decided to draw a line in the sand and not do anything I am not physically or financially capable of doing. If the brothers pick up the slack, fine, if not it’s not something I have any control over.

    This is difficult for me because when I set out to do somehting it’s always done right, but this time I’m stepping back.

    It’s nice to know there are others out there who understand my situation and would take the time to give me advice and encouragement.

  • 9. Michele  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:11 am

    I could use some advice. I took my Mom into my house to care for her and my brother thinks he is punishing me by not helping. When actually he is hurting her. We have fought most of our lives because he thinks he is something special. I have worked nights and weekends mostly all my life and he would get mad and not talk to me because I couldn’t go to his kids parties. Now, when the decision was made for her to come with me, I called him and asked him if he was going to help out, and he told me he would if I treated him and his wife better….huh! I have been the one that has done all the care giving to both my parents. He does nothing. He is more focused on her house. When she had gotten sick in the summer, he had two dumpsters delivered to her house and threw out almost all of her stuff. It was like watching my parents life being thrown away in the garbage. She has lived her for three months now and he went and put up her Christmas tree? I do not understand that at all. They also sent her Christmas card to her house. It arrived here on New Years Eve. Want to know what that is about. If anyone can give me any advice please email me. I am starting to resent her and I do not want to do that. She sticks up for him and I do not understand. She knows she can never live by herself and he doesn’t seem to get it. Honestly, I do not care if we ever talk again. I emailed him last week stating that and told him this is about Mom. She is not healthy and it would be nice if he could spend some time with her. No reply.

    • 10. Steve  |  January 25, 2010 at 10:05 pm

      Hi Michele,
      I hope you received my email, but I also wanted to post it here–so others can also glean from your journey.
      I have the priviledge of talking to caregivers around the country–hundreds–and sibling issues are really big, and they really hurt.
      All I can say is try to block it out of your mind. Try to stay focused on you and your mom, and living the healthiest life possible. They say that the best revenge is a good life. You can’t make your brother come around. And yes, it hurts your mom, but sometimes we can’t fix things, even when we really want to. Just stay focused on what’s at hand. Caregiving is so all consuming–physically and emotionally–and maybe it’s a good thing. We have to let others live with the choices they make. We have to live with our own. Love your mom. Do right by her. Take care of yourself as well. Do right by you. Let go of the rest. It’s the only way I know of to let be swallowed by resentment.
      I do hope this helps. I’ll be thinking of you.

      ~Carol O’Dell


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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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