Caring for Elderly Parents: How to Get Siblings to Help

This time I focus on how specifically to discuss your aging parents care needs and sharing responsibilities with them.

Be Clear
When we talk to others we often think we’re getting our message across when we aren’t. When talking to your siblings give details and specifics. Telling siblings you’re doing more and more for your parents is different than telling them you’re taking your parents to all their appointments, making sure they have meals and keeping their house clean. To paint a clearer picture you might tell them how many hours a week you spend including how much time you have to take off from work, what you’re doing about their meals (do you make their meals, do you take them to the grocery store so they have food to make their own meals) and what you do to keep their house clean (periodic deep cleaning, weekly cleaning, or daily cleaning).

Also explain clearly why you’re doing what you’re doing, for instance, describe what happens if you don’t clean up daily. Perhaps your dad is incontinent and your mom has poor vision so you have to come to their home and clean their bathroom each day. Maybe they have the stamina to make a meal but not to clean up afterwards.

Be Direct
What exactly do you want from your siblings? We often expect others will understand what we mean when we say something. Leave no room for misinterpretation. Be specific about what you want:

“I can’t keep taking time off work to take mom and dad to their appointments. Can you take them next month?”
“My family is complaining that I’m ignoring them because I spend every weekend at mom and dad’s. I need your help. Would you be willing to take turns going there on the weekends?”

Be Open
Be open to other ideas. Your solution may not work for your siblings. Sometimes we’re too close to a problem to see other solutions. Explain the problem and ask them for solutions or, share your solution and let them know that you’re open to other ideas.

Be Humble
When we’re stressed it’s easy to tell ourselves stories about why things are the way they are or, to jump to false conclusions. Take time to assess the situation: How did events evolve? Were your siblings willing to help at various points? Is it possible your siblings assumed you’d ask for help if you needed it?

It may be that a crisis occurred and someone had to step in and take charge so you did. However it may have caused your siblings to back off. They may feel they’re not needed, that you have everything under control since you’re not asking for help or that they’re not wanted. Or, you may have been the first to see that your parents needed help and provided it. If your parents initially needed just a little assistance it may have seemed unnecessary to ask your siblings to help out. Over time your parents’ needs, your work or family demands may have increased to the point that you realize you can’t do it alone anymore.

I hope these tips will help you and your siblings find a way to share care giving duties. In another article I focus on how siblings can contribute when they don’t live locally or are unable to give equal time to care giving duties.

Would you like to talk about your specific situation?

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