by Joy Loverde
My last blog offered tips on letting siblings know more what’s expected of them, giving them a choice, replacing complaining with requests, suggesting trial runs and getting parents more involved. Here are the rest of the tips from my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner, (Revised and Updated, 2009, Random House):
Call their bluff.
When siblings criticize, don't argue or defend your position about how you are handling your elder’s affairs. When they say, “You should take Mom to the doctor more often,” agree with them (that let’s the air out of their argument) and say, “You may be right, and much better at this than me. Why don’t you take over this responsibility?” If the bullying persists, bring in a heavyweight. Ask a geriatric case manager or a lawyer to join in on the next family discussion.
Refuse to be anyone’s “middle man.”
Instruct parents and siblings to talk with each other directly. You are not a messenger. Say, for example, your brother asks you, “How’s Dad feeling?” take yourself out of the middle by saying, “I really can’t answer for Dad, it’s best if you ask him yourself. Why don’t you give him a call?”
Stay on them.
If you and your siblings have an agreement and they drop the ball, get on the phone immediately and say, “Three weeks ago we agreed that you would help Dad with… and you have not done so. What will help you keep this commitment?”
Step back if there is a fight.
The content of eldercare conversations is life altering; so it’s only natural for tensions to build in the communication process. If there is a fight, first calm yourself by taking a deep breath. If you have a drink with you, take a long, slow sip. This will reduce the likelihood that you will say something you may regret later. Use non-threatening body language—sit back, uncross your arms and legs. When you’re ready, you can say:
I'm sure we can find a solution to this.
Where do you think we should go from here?
I’d like to give this some thought. Let's talk later when things calm down a bit.
The truth about caregiving is this: the responsibilities within the family are often unevenly and unfairly distributed. Make continual demands of siblings no matter how resistant they are. Ultimately, if they continue to refuse your requests for help keep in mind that you’ve done all you can, and everything else will fall into place.
Here are a few suggestions of tasks to delegate to siblings. If any family member seems reluctant to help with hands-on care, or lives far away, ask that person to contribute financially as a way to be of assistance; then you decide how to make the best use of the money.
- Home maintenance and repairs
- Grocery shopping and cooking
- Bill paying
- Making phone calls
- Interacting with the doctor
- Managing medications
- Companionship/social activities
- Checking in on a daily/weekly basis
- Attending religious services
- Managing home helpers
- Yard work/plant care
- Opening mail
- Letter writing
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