Many caregivers ask how to respond to siblings who, after being directly and distinctly asked for help, either skirt responsibility with excuses, or become outright nasty if they are asked for assistance in a direct manner.
Let’s look at a few examples and contemplate responses. These can, perhaps, trigger ideas about how to handle your unique circumstances:
“I Don’t Have the Time”This excuse is probably the most often used reason for not helping out. The implication in this excuse is that you, the person who has taken on the role of primary caregiver, do have time.
Caregiving can grow from just running a few errands for the elder into a full-time job. Many people have quit paying jobs, or not accepted a promotion, in order to be available to care for an aging parent. From the outside, it looks as though this person has the time. In most cases, the person has made the time, often at great sacrifice.
Unless there’s a family agreement, family caregivers don’t get a salary. That not only affects their current financial status, but their future, because family caregivers aren’t paying into Social Security if they can’t work. Therefore, those of us who have given years to caregiving often find our own later years threatened by poverty. Yet, many of us stay home from a paying job to care for an elder; thus we “have the time.”
Having the time is also relative in that caregiving is emotionally, if not literally, a 24/7 job. Most caregivers need a break from the stress of the constant responsibility of being the primary caregiver. Siblings could provide that relief, either in person or by offering to help pay for respite care in the form of in-home help or adult day care.
When this option is suggested to siblings, some jump on board, many don’t.
Siblings may come up with excuse number two:
“I Don’t Have the Money”Let’s say you have a brother in a distant state who says he’d be happy to help out by paying for some respite care for you, the caregiver, but he just doesn’t have the money.
Maybe he’s right. He doesn’t have the money. But there are other ways he can help, if he actually wants to. He can take over some of the bookkeeping tasks that suck time from your day. He can be the point person for sorting through Medicare bills and other health insurance issues. He can, especially in this day of Internet communication, become part of the caregiving unit by providing whatever help he can.
“I Can’t Bear to See Mom/Dad Like That”They think you like it? Day after day you watch the decline. You help them with everything, including very intimate day-to-day functions, such as toileting. Do your siblings think this step has been easy for you?
The first time I took my dad to the bathroom is branded on my brain. Mom had gone out to run an errand and there was no choice. Dad had to go.
I was sick over the thought that he’d find the process humiliating. Thank God, it didn’t seem to bother him. But it was very hard on me. This was my dad. Yes, he’d changed my diapers when I was a baby. But no matter how much of him illness had taken, I wanted to preserve his dignity, and having ones’ kids take over bathroom duties isn’t what most people would want. However, I did what needed to be done, and soon it was automatic. After a time, I never gave it a thought.
Other agonizing adjustments we make as we watch our parents decline include bathing parents, feeding them, coping with irrational outbursts, dressing them, and just about any other duty one can do for a child, without a thought.
Please don’t misunderstand. Most of us are honored to be able to help our elders through these stages. It’s the sadness of coping with their decline that causes our pain. Don’t our siblings understand that we “can’t bear to see him or her like this” either? Probably not. Maybe we are just braver than they are. Maybe we are just more “dutiful.” Maybe we are just, well, on the spot. Whatever the reason, we step up to the plate and do what is required. If we’re uncomfortable, we do it anyway. We get over our discomfort.
*Article from Agingcare.com (Link)