I don’t remember where I found this article…but it bears repeating. When you think about it, how many caregivers are providing care without support from other family? If this is you, please stop waiting for others to volunteer to help. My experience is it will NEVER happen. Acutually, the opiside is happening…the longer you don’t ask for the help, the more they all think you are doing fine without thier assistance and are relieved.If you are at the end of your rope…or if you are just starting out providing care, there are ways to ask for help…and you should!
There are many reasons that people take on the role of primary caregiver, such as closer proximity to the elderly parent or greater availability to help out. But just as often it’s because they see themselves as most able to do the job. Unfortunately, a competent and capable adult child who has taken on the role of caregiver often begins doing more and more until eventually she or he becomes responsible for the majority of the caregiving duties.
While it’s best to involve other siblings early on before such a pattern develops, it is possible to redistribute the responsibility later in the game. Here are some ideas for opening the lines of communication and enlisting the support of your siblings:
- Call a family meeting – Whether by conference call or in person, schedule a time to meet with all of your siblings, even those from out of town, to discuss what needs to be done to help your parents.
- Make a written agenda – “Write down an agenda for discussion,” says Wendy Kaufman, a family and life-balancing specialist and CEO of Balancing Life’s Issues, Inc. “Write down details of all you are doing now, such as health care, home obligations and transportation.”
- Do as much listening as talking – Explain how you feel in a matter-of-fact way. But be open to other’s feelings and viewpoints, too. Your siblings may not have been aware of how much you’ve been doing. Or perhaps they are feeling hurt and angry about being left out and uninformed about your parent’s needs.
- Be specific about what you want – Have an idea beforehand about which tasks you’d like to be relieved of rather than just a general appeal for help. Perhaps you’d like someone to take over the driving to physical therapy appointments, or give a hand with grocery shopping or meal preparation.
- Divide up tasks – Split up the labor among those present. While there are many ways of doing this, for example dividing chores by expertise. A family member with experience in health issues could take on all of the medical appointments, for example. Or the person with good business sense might handle legal issues. And make sure to include siblings who live a distance away. Even if they can’t help with day-to-day needs, they might offer money for a housekeeper, or be willing to come every few months to take over and give others a break.
- Don’t expect total equality – It’s not likely that you’ll achieve total equality in division of tasks. This is okay, says Kaufman. “It’s more important to make sure that all siblings have a manageable lifestyle, that all can help to alleviate some of the stress on each other.”