It’s a sad fact. People with a parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s or another health condition that requires a lot of care often have trouble getting their siblings to help out with care. Sometimes financial burdens or time constraints get in the way of siblings having an equal share of the workload. Other times it’s the hard fact of watching a parent’s health deteriorate that keeps one sibling from helping out. Sometimes it’s merely a disagreement about who should be doing what or how things should be done, especially if the parent does not want help. After all, people are living longer now than ever before, meaning many of us don’t have a model to work from when creating strategies for caring for our aging parents.
But regardless of the reasons, it’s a problem that needs to be solved. If it takes a village to raise a child, the same is undoubtedly true for tending to an aging parent. For those who feel alone in caring for their aging parents, we’re offering some tips today for how to obtain your siblings’ help without causing a family feud.
1. Make plans in advance.
When the issue arises (or as soon as you are able to see it on the horizon), call a family meeting and sit down with your siblings. Having a big discussion about the type of care you want for your parent, who is able to provide that care, and what your plan for your parent’s care will be may make things a lot easier down the road.
2. Think logically rather than emotionally.
Everybody’s got their own agenda, but it’s important to separate your wants from the needs of your parent. Try to keep your emotions out of the mix as you work to make the best decisions to support your aging loved one. When your siblings criticize you, try to see things from their perspective and remember that it is probably only because they care about your parent. When asking for help, try not to make your siblings feel guilty; it will only make them put up their defenses.
3. Understand that nobody is a superhero.
While it’s upsetting when a sibling is never around to help out with a parent, it is important to take into account their situation. What’s going on with them, their children, their spouse, their jobs? If you’re the sibling with the most free time, it makes sense that you’re also putting in the most care time. This doesn’t mean your brothers and sisters are off the hook. But give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are doing their best to help out.
4. Ask yourself what help you really want.
Before you go asking your siblings for help, make sure you know what you want from them. Are you just lacking their emotional support? Do you need them to bring over some meals? Run errands? Give you a day off here and there from elder care? The more clear you are about what you’re expecting from your siblings, the more likely you can avoid future arguments with them and get them to commit to something.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?