Caregiver Overload? How to Ask Siblings for Help

Sharing is caring. Ask for sibling support before a crisis develops.

It’s a tough job, caring for elderly parents. Even in the most ideal of situations. If you’ve taken on the role of primary caregiver you understand how the responsibilities are overwhelming at times. And having siblings who are not involved can often make it seem worse. Feelings of resentment after long days spent caring for Mom or Dad develop. Before emotions run too high here are some tips on how to enlist help from siblings, when possible.

You Won’t Get Help if You Don’t Ask

Some caregivers operate under the assumption that their siblings should intuitively know what needs to be done. But if they haven’t been involved, it’s difficult to grasp the day in and day out commitment.

If a sibling does happen to ask “What do you want me to do?” answering with a vague “I don’t know. Just do something!” is not a fair approach. Make a list of all the duties you regularly perform and underline the areas where you want or need assistance.

Keep your list handy, or better yet, get together with your siblings and share your list with them. They may not realize how much you do.

Time for a Townhall

Don’t wait for an emergency to call a family meeting. Asking for help when you’re tired, frustrated or stressed can be counter-productive. An effective family meeting requires advanced scheduling. And the best way to conduct such an emotionally charged meeting is to set an agenda. Have everyone involved agree ahead of time to stick to it. And don’t forget to bring your list.

When you approach a sibling to ask them to participate in caregiving remember they may feel uncomfortable about the subject. Some of the resistance you encounter may be due to denial. Perhaps your brother or sister finds it difficult to admit a parent is declining mentally or physically. Do what you can to make them feel more at ease.

A Peaceful Easy Feeling

Once you begin discussing the different duties required daily, weekly and monthly you’ll get an idea of the help you can expect. Discussing strengths (or maybe just interests) helps guide the division of responsibilities.

If your siblings reluctantly agree to pitch in try easing them into their role by delegating a few simple responsibilities. Does someone like to clean more than cook? Great. Check housekeeping off your list. Is someone more internet savvy? Have them set-up automatic bill payments and do online shopping.

It’s important to manage your own expectations and realize that the distribution of duties most likely will not be equal. Keep things in perspective. You’re moving from a place of doing it all on your own to getting some help. And that’s a great start!