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  • Melrose Meadows

Not Everyone is a Caregiver, and That's Okay

When a parent has a medical emergency or an unexpected diagnosis, siblings who aren't typically involved in each other's daily lives are thrown into a world of caregiving. And often, the sibling who lives nearest seems like the logical choice to attend to Mom or Dad's needs as a temporary solution.

But then your parent's care needs increase. And if you are the sibling doing most of the caregiving, it can start to feel like other family members aren't stepping up and doing their part.

Siblings who live out of town can mistakenly assume things are okay because Mom or Dad brightens up during phone calls or periodic visits. Others may have financial or time constraints that prevent them from participating fully, or they may not be comfortable being caregivers.

People have different strengths.

Nobody wants to feel that their family members are uncaring, but the fact is, caregiving doesn't come naturally to everyone. People have different ways of showing they care and other relationships with their parents that affect how they deal with a parent’s illness.

As the primary caregiver, you may need to reassess your assumptions that all parties will meet your parent's needs. It may not happen. But there are ways to relieve your strain that can help curb any resentments you may feel.

Have family meetings, early and often.

Don't assume the other family members know what to do. The goal of the family meeting is to explain what your parent needs and find ways to get those needs met.

Clarify what your parent's needs are. Everyone may not agree about this, so be prepared with statements from your parent's doctor or other medical professionals.

If you're the primary caregiver, set some boundaries as gently and early as possible. State your needs clearly and directly without attaching any blame or making assumptions about what others will do and invite others to do the same. For example, "Mom needs to go to the doctor on Thursday at 4 pm. You'll need to arrive 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork, and she needs a call in the morning to remind her to be ready."

What if the others can't or won't help?

Not everyone is a caretaker, but they can probably offer some support.

One sibling might not be good about visiting Mom but be great at managing her bills and correspondence. Another might be happy to spend hours on the phone but unable to visit often because of work obligations.

Ask about small tasks, like scheduling appointments, communicating with caregivers, or planning group zoom sessions. Could an out-of-town sibling sort out Mom's insurance? Could a grandchild run to the store for her?

Set a schedule for updating and discussing. Don't rely on your parent to tell you what your siblings are doing for them. And if you're a primary caretaker, don't expect your siblings to care for your parent in the same way you do. Let go of the idea that everyone will do things a certain way, and you'll be happier.

Conflicts are Common

If conflicts within the family arise, consider talking to a neutral party, like a geriatric care manager or family therapist, to talk through disputes and make caregiving decisions. Many families report that hiring a care manager was enormously helpful.

If your family can agree on how to share caregiving duties, you'll be able to preserve your relationship with each other and be present for your senior. Your happy, stress-free presence will benefit your parent greatly.

Remember to Take Care of Yourself

Being a long-term caregiver is incredibly challenging. One of the best things you can do is take good care of yourself. Try to notice when you need a break and make sure you take the time you need for quality self-care, whether it be time alone, hobbies, extra rest, exercise, or socializing. You deserve it.

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