Fortunately, being a caregiver doesn’t have to be a one-person job, even in a family full of seemingly reluctant individuals. It will take effort, ingenuity and, at times, cold hard cash, but in most cases, you can gain the cooperation of siblings and other family members and get the help you need.
Though you may feel alone in your own family, you’re in good company. Millions of people across the country feel like you do. In one survey, 76 percent of family caregivers said they don’t receive help from other family members. In fact, many people say dealing with unhelpful siblings is one of the most stressful aspects of caregiving. As exhausting as caregiving can be under any circumstances, it is even more tiring and frustrating if you’re surrounded by family members who don’t seem to want to pitch in.
10 ways to get your family to pitch in
- Let them know you need them. Many times, family members would be happy to help if they knew their help was needed, so ask. Let your family know you need their help and, when possible, be specific about the help you need.
- Hold a family meeting. Think of everyone who needs to be involved in caregiving (siblings, nieces, nephews and spouses, for example) and arrange a time and place to get together to discuss your loved one’s care.
- Consider caring styles. Just because your siblings care for your parents differently than you do, don’t assume they don’t care at all or stress out over who cares more. Be grateful for their caring gestures and take what you can get.
- Don’t discount men. When looking for help with caregiving, don’t limit your search to the females in your family. Men are often willing and able to help out if you just ask.
- Hold your criticism. No one will ever do everything completely to your liking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care and can’t help. Unless your siblings are endangering your parents’ lives or well being, holding your criticism is essential to gaining their cooperation.
- Consider finances. If a sibling has more money than time to offer your parent, ask her to pay for some of the services that you would otherwise have to do yourself.
- Consider talents and interests. When you match caregiving jobs to your family’s talents and interests, you’re likely to get more cooperation.
- Look beyond siblings. If you’re an only child or if your sibling(s) simply aren’t able or willing to help, look elsewhere; your parents’ nieces, nephews, younger siblings or grandchildren are all good choices for helping with caregiving tasks.
- Show them the money. Though it sounds mercenary, it may take cold hard cash to get some family members to help out with your parents. Your parent never needs to know that your siblings are being paid for their services.
Consider their circumstances. If your sibling’s failure to help with a parent’s care is uncharacteristic behavior, instead of scolding her, try having a heart-to-heart about any problems she’s facing. It just might start a healing process for both of you.
Alexis Abramson is a lifestyle gerontologist and the author of ”The Caregivers Survival Handbook: How to care for your aging parents without losing yourself.”