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When Your Siblings Won’t Help

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

Are you a caregiver to elderly parents? Are you looking around and wondering why your siblings aren’t helping you? Quite often, caring for aging parents becomes the responsibility of just one person and usually it’s a daughter.

The demands of eldercare are frequently overlooked by brothers and sisters of the person who is trying to do everything herself. Where many hands could make light work of the long list of caregiving tasks, sadly that’s not what happens in many families. Siblings are either not aware of what’s involved, not interested in helping, or say they’re too busy and unable to do anything.

What can you do if you’re overwhelmed and frustrated by your siblings who aren’t pitching in? How can you convince them that you can’t do it all yourself?

Start by having a conversation.

Pick a neutral time and place to meet with your siblings so you can explain the condition of your parents. Focus on what you’re doing and how it’s impacting your life. Have you cut down your hours at work? Did you cancel a vacation because you were afraid to leave your parents alone? Opening their eyes to what’s going on may be just what is needed. State the facts and don’t speak in an accusatory tone.

Take time to prepare.

Before you initiate a meeting, get prepared. Keep a diary of everything that you’re doing for your parents and how much time it takes. Also, track your expenses and bring your receipts. Be ready to provide hard evidence so it’s obvious you’re not overstating the needs.

Get the physicians involved.

Ask your parents’ doctor to write a note about what your parents can and can’t do, and to state their recommendations for care. The opinion of healthcare professionals may carry more weight and provide an unbiased view of the situation. If your health is being affected by the stress of caregiving, get a note from your doctor as well saying that you need a respite break.

Be very specific about what you need.

Don’t leave it to your siblings’ imagination. Be positive about the strengths of each person and think about how their skills could contribute. Is someone in the family an accountant? Ask them to balance the checkbook each month. Does someone love to cook? Suggest that they drop off dinner once a week. Is your sister a social butterfly? Encourage her to take your mom or dad to church or to visit a friend.

Make it easy for your siblings to help.

Don’t fall in the trap of criticizing them if they don’t do things quite the way you would like. It’s best to be flexible and pick your battles.

Caring for parents should be shared equitably in families but dynamics between siblings often dictate otherwise. If you can’t get help from your family, it may be time to look elsewhere for the support you need to provide your parents with the best care possible.

If you’re dealing with family members who are reluctant to help and you’d like an objective opinion on your options, Takacs McGinnis can help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.



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