The role of a family caregiver is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when they don’t get the support they need from their family members. When one sibling takes on the majority of the caregiving responsibilities, other siblings may not understand the daily challenges they face. This can damage familial relationships, at a time when everyone should be coming together in aid of their aging parents. With a little communication, however, adult siblings can come to a harmonious caregiving arrangement.
Time for a Family Meeting
When broaching the subject of shared caregiving responsibilities, every sibling needs to be present and accounted for. If the caretaker is constantly playing phone tag with their family members, it’s hard to come to any fixed arrangements. Get everyone together, whether in person or via conference call apps, like Facetime or Skype. Then the caregiver should carefully lay out all the responsibilities involved in providing care.
When discussing caregiving with less-involved siblings, caregivers need to be specific. Their siblings may not understand the scope of the job, and an in-depth summary of the monthly tasks and costs may go a long way. Caregivers should be detailed about it, covering topics ranging from transportation to health care to the costs of prescriptions. If possible, caregivers should try to make some kind of itemized spreadsheet or document. When the other siblings have the facts laid out before them, it’s easier to guide the conversation towards actionable solutions, rather than vague promises of assistance.
Tell Them What You Need
Many caregivers are so over-worked that even asking for assistance can be taxing. When dealing with family members, however, caregivers will get the best results if they’re clear and upfront about what duties they want to be relieved of. They may ask their sister to drive dad to his monthly optometrist appointment, or their brother to pay for mom’s insulin. If siblings are given actionable tasks that they can say yes or no to, they’re more likely to accept.
If caregivers want to share responsibilities, they should try to keep the whole family in the loop. Thanks to modern technology, this is relatively easy. Caregivers should keep a Google Calendar listing the doctor’s appointments and events scheduled for their aging parents. They can also create a Google Doc that lists all major health updates, and a group-wide To Do List. If siblings have easy access to the need-to-know information, they’ll have an easier time pitching in.
Don’t Expect an Even Distribution of Labor
In a perfect world, every sibling would spend the same amount of time, energy, and money on caregiving. The primary caretaker need to be realistic, however, and hope for an outcome wherein every sibling helps in their own way. A sibling who lives across the country may offer crucial financial support, while a sibling who lives 30 minutes away may be able to log more time with mom and dad. Find a way for everyone to pitch in, and the family dynamic may become much healthier.