family caregiver stress

Siblings!  Other than general Caregiver Stress questions, it seems that various questions about Siblings top the list.  Maybe it’s because Siblings are one of the primary causes of Family Caregiver Stress?!

Typical Complaints From Siblings

Typical questions that we receive on our Help Me Help Momma LiveCast regarding siblings are:

  1. How can I get my Sister to help me?
  2. I do all the work.  The only thing my siblings do is boss me around!
  3. My sister with Power of Attorney thinks that she is boss of the world!  She won’t even let me see Momma.
  4. My siblings live across the street from Momma and will do nothing to help.  I live out of town and drive in twice a week to help.  What do I do?
  5. I am the only local sibling and do all of the “hands-on” work to help Momma.  My siblings live out of state and say there is nothing they can do.  What do you think?

Wait a minute!  Siblings are your brothers and sisters – Family!!  There is no one who you should have a tighter bond with – Right?  Family should have your back, be on your side, take up for you when no one else will.  

But in real life, it seems that just the opposite is true.  It seems that rank strangers, who you had never met before today, actually care more and will do more to help than some family members?  Why is this?

“Reasons” for Un-Involvement From Siblings

I don’t know whether un-involvement is even a word, but it accurately describes the state of activity of many Family Members.  They are proudly un-involved.  Here are the “reasons” that I hear most from un-involved family members for their non-participation with the caregiving duties for their parents.  I will let you be the judge as to whether the “reasons” hold water.

I don’t have time.

Most Americans have a very busy lifestyle.  Between all of the duties associated with caring for our own immediate family, performing job duties and social/community activities, commitments and obligations, we are literally burning the candle at both ends.  Most people’s plate is not only full, it is running over.  There just isn’t time to provide care for an incapacitated parent several hours a day or week.  They love their parents but just don’t have time to help care for them. (By the way, I understand that the Family Caregiver who actually provides care doesn’t “have time” either, but we are just going over the excuses “reasons” for other sibling non-involvement here.)

My health is bad / I’m not able to provide care.

This may be true.  There are some people who legitimately have very poor health and do good to even take care of themselves – let alone someone else.  Sometimes this one is valid, sometimes not.

I never got along well with Momma when I was younger and it’s too late to start trying now.

Also a version of this goes “Momma treated me poorly when I was a kid and I haven’t gotten over it yet”.  I have seen cases where parents were in fact very difficult or even abusive to the kids during their lifetime and now the parent needs help.  This is a tough one that you have to come to terms with in your own mind.  In most cases where this is true, the parent knows they have been difficult.  If there is ever an opportunity or desire for reconciliation or closure, this may be the time to heal the hurt.

It hurts too bad to see / help him now that he has declined so much.

Some siblings do struggle with this.  They remember their parent when they were “on top of their game”.  The parent was working at a job, managing several job/family/community duties and in the “child’s” mind, was 10 foot tall and bulletproof.  Now they have Alzheimer’s or some debilitating disease and are just a dim shadow of who they used to be.  These memories do hurt.  But on some level (even if you think they don’t remember), they need our help and crave our presence.

Sister Sally is a Nurse or lives across the street or {fill-in-the-blank}.  It’s easy for her.  Let her do it.

Just because one of the siblings may have some special medical (or other semi-related) skill or lives across the street, doesn’t mean it’s easy.  This is your parent.  It probably hurts all siblings equally.  Much could be said about this “reason”  but since it’s the weakest, let’s move on.

You can probably see from the above sampling that there are a number of words offered as “reasons” for not providing help with a declining parent.  The bottom line is this – if a sibling is not inclined to help, they probably won’t.  There is probably little you can say or do to make them.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t try.

The truth is that down the road, the Family Caregiver who did provide help will have special, private memories that they made with their Loved One during the Loved One’s declining months. These are memories that Momma’s other children won’t have.  For those who did not help provide care, this is their loss.  They will realize this some day after it is too late to do anything about it.

You should try to get the siblings to help for their own benefit.  For a few quick ideas on ways to help make this happen, download our Free Tip Sheet called, 7 Tips on Stimulative Sibling Involvement.  The ideas contained in this Tip Sheet are our best ideas garnered from years of working with Clients and from personal involvement.  These tips help those siblings who do have some legitimate “reasons” and just need a little help getting past this roadblock.  It’s worth a try.  But remember, those who will – will.  And those who won’t – won’t.  



Best wishes with your Family Involvement efforts.

About the Author

Doug & his wife Cindy have not only helped hundreds of families with their estate planning and elder law needs over the years, but have personal experience as caregivers and advocates for their Loved Ones as well.

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