“My sister is useless. She refuses to help care for my parents.” “My brother doesn’t do anything for my Mom.” “I have two siblings and no one will help me when it comes to caring for my parents.” “My sister lives out of state and when she shows up once a year, all she does is criticize me!” I hear these comments almost daily from family caregivers, usually when someone is at the desperation point. Life no longer makes sense. The primary caregiver is exhausted; life is lived in crisis mode; and now there is anger and resentment added to the mix of feelings. For the family caregiver experiencing the emotional tug and pull of these feelings, the world seems overwhelming and nothing makes sense. It’s time to examine the complexities of what is happening with the ABSENT SIBLING!
It’s possible that you are not going to want to hear the truth. It’s possible you are going to be uncomfortable with what is coming, but you have been uncomfortable for a long time now, right? There are reasons why one sibling is doing the heavy lifting and taking over the primary care for a parent and there are reasons why the other sibling(s) is not. I don’t believe that most children of aging parents don’t want to help. I believe there is a core reason for the lack of involvement and it’s absolutely a must that you find out what that reason is. In my experience it can be many things.
- Your sibling is terrified that he/she will not be able to compare to you.
- Your sibling is terrified that he/she will lose the ability to manage life – that somehow it will be spinning out of control.
- Your sibling fears that you will leave the scene if he/she steps in.
- Your sibling doesn’t know what to do and you make it look too easy. Your sibling doesn’t want to feel inferior to you.
- Your sibling has past issues with your parents that cause him/her to not want to get involved.
At the core of your sibling’s unavailability or seeming unwillingness to help, there is a bigger issue. For many it’s pure terror and your brother or sister is afraid to tell you the reason. In order to move this situation forward, you have to change your thinking from anger, frustration and blame to one focused on finding a resolution. This requires you to acknowledge all of your feelings regarding your sibling and then move on! You have to go through a process in order to successfully make this happen.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Find a way to express all of your feelings. Journal, meditate, talk to a friend, whatever you need to do to reach clarity, do that.
- Decide what you can do, what you won’t do and the areas that you need support and help.
- Set up a meeting with your sibling and speak from a place of love. No anger in this meeting. Explain your challenges and ask for help. So often caregivers forget to ask and think that others know the struggle they are having.
- If your sibling refuses to help, ask what the obstacle is that is preventing him/her from assisting you. You must find a way to get to the very root of the problem.
- Reassure your sibling that there is no perfect way to care for a parent and that perfection is not the intended goal, but rather, the help is what is needed.
- If your sibling tells you that there is simply NO way that he/she can give time or energy, then be clear about what else your sibling might do to assist you. Perhaps it’s cooking some meals. Maybe it’s financial assistance so you can hire some outside help. Maybe it’s taking over some of the business issues i.e. handling insurance claims, paying bills, etc. Your goal in this meeting is to find one thing that your brother or sister can do to help. Remember that you have a veritable pile of things to handle each day, each week, each month and your goal is to get your sibling involved in some small way that relieves the pressure for you.
- Find something that your sibling can do and then turn it over and trust. Over time, your sibling will more than likely be willing to help out in other ways. This is a process. Don’t lose site of the goal.
- Do not worry if the task your sibling is doing is completed in the same manner that you would do it.
- Often the reason we don’t receive the help the need is because we come across to the rest of our family as “all knowing” and “perfect.” You and I know this is not the case, but for outsiders, it often appears this way.
When we are stuck in a situation that feels unmovable, it is imperative that we look at our own behavior and see if we can’t make a shift in the way we show up to others.
If you are really struggling with this, give us a call or send us an email. We are available to help you. There is nothing that says you HAVE to be a caregiver who never asks for personal support and professional help. [email protected].