Sibling Struggles: Caregiving Tips

Posted by: The Bristal

Sibling Struggles: Caregiving TipsDear Maryellen,

My 94-year-old mother suffers from a variety of health problems that make it difficult for her to care for herself. She insists on staying in her home instead of moving to senior living. She has lived there for almost 50 years. The problem is that my brother just won’t help with her care and won’t even take her to doctor appointments. I love my mother and want to care for her. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that I am getting more and more resentful of my brother. I’m afraid I will say something I might really regret! -Renee T

Dear Renee,

First, know that you are not alone. One of the greatest challenges in caregiving can be working with siblings to care for a parent. Often times, one child shoulders most of the caregiver responsibilities. In most cases, it is the daughter. We hear a variety of reasons why other siblings won’t help, everything from “I can’t stand to see Mom like that” to “I don’t have time.” None of them make it easier on the adult child trying to manage it all.

We have a few tips when dealing with siblings that might help you:

  • Call a meeting with your brother in a neutral place, someplace where you can really talk.
  • Prepare a list of tasks you do and those you need help with doing for your mother.
  • Really give some thought beforehand to what help you need from him. Maybe lawn care or household repairs? What jobs will he be most likely to do on a routine basis?
  • When you sit down with your brother, review your concerns and your list with him in a kind and respectful way. This may be difficult given how much resentment you feel towards him, but you need to make an extra effort. Remember, your goal is to enlist his help and keep the peace.
  • Listen to what he has to say. You may find that fear is really what keeps him from helping your mother. Maybe you can initially arrange to meet at your mother’s house together to work on what needs to be done. Easing him in to caregiver responsibilities may allow him time to adapt to the changes in your mother that keep him away.
  • Try to divide up the task list and talk about dates and deadlines. Leaving the meeting with a definite plan will help.
  • If all else fails, you have two options. You can hire a family mediator to help resolve your differences. Or you can accept that he won’t help and move on without him. That will be hard to do, but continuing to live with resentment will put your own health at risk.


Best Regards,

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