By Joy Loverde
Let’s face it, how we think and what we do can send siblings running in the opposite direction. In his article, "The Myth of Role Reversal," care consultant Claude Thau reports, “Frequently, a child will enter the care-giving portion of life with noble enthusiasm. ‘My father was always there when I needed help, now I can help him.’ But at some point-in-time, their attitude may become shaken. The parent may not be able to show any appreciation for the services provided. The perception of care-giving turns from being masked as adventure and cause to becoming a chore. But the child is uncomfortable admitting that care-giving is a burden.” Consequently, the more a caregiver tries to tell herself that eldercare is a natural aspect of life that she should have anticipated and enjoy, the less likely she will ask others to share the care.
When it comes to eldercare and siblings now is the time to get out of your own way. Are you unknowingly averting the possibility of getting help from siblings? To find out, review the questions below. Any “yes” answers indicate you’re partially responsible for why you’re going it alone:
• Am I hinting or complaining rather than asking for specific help?
• Am I unwilling to share my parents’ attention?
• Am I proving to others that I am the good, always-giving child?
• Do I believe that I am the only one who can do the best job?
• Am I afraid to face feeling guilty by not being there 24/7?
• Do I believe it takes too much time to explain what is needed?
• Do I accept without question that caregiving is “woman’s work?”
• Do I lack the energy to argue with siblings?
In brief, historical family conflicts, coupled with unhealthy attitudes will impact your sibling’s willingness to share the care. While it may be next to impossible (and require years of therapy) to mend impaired relationships, it’s never too late to implement the kind of behaviors that will get you want you want – help from siblings.
To get started, here are some tips from my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner, (Revised and Updated, 2009, Random House):
Know what you want.
Are you assuming your siblings know what’s going on and why you need their help? They may have no idea or understanding of the gravity of a particular situation. Make a list of the assistance you need. If you’re not sure, review the “Caregiver Task” list.
Replace complaining with specific requests.
Instead of saying, “You never help out..." be specific and share details. Say, “I know you have a lot going on at work and it's hard for you, it’s hard for me too and I need help with… (bill paying, grocery shopping, cooking, etc.).
Give siblings a choice.
Choices put most people in a more agreeable mood. When it’s time to make a request, present alternatives that are favorable to you. Try this, “Which one works better with your schedule? Mom needs a ride to the doctor and needs help grocery shopping,” or, “Is it better for you to help Dad on Tuesday or Saturday?”
Suggest trial runs.
Putting a time limit on caregiving tasks may help ease sibling resistance. For example, “Okay, Sis, try this arrangement for two weeks; then let’s take another look to see how it’s working out.”
Let your parent do the talking.
Next time Mom asks you to drive her somewhere, tell her you’d love to but that you already have plans. Suggest that she ask (name other sibling) to drive her. Do not make the call for Mom, let her do it herself. Siblings may have a tougher time rejecting a parent’s request for help.
Be sure to bookmark EldercareABC’s RSS Feed so that you will be able to read the final installment of how to get your siblings to help care for your aging parent.