The Family Dynamic of Caregiving
Posted: 4/17/2012 8:50 AM by
It can be difficult to face the responsibilities of caring for an elderly parent alone, but for some families, sharing the duties with siblings can bring about a whole slew of other issues. Sometimes, siblings run into issues when one lives near the senior and the other is trying to care from a distance. Other times, both siblings live near their loved one and cannot come to a conclusion about what type of care to get mom or dad, or who should be responsible for which caregiving duties.
Taking care of mom or dad can bring out the best or the worst in sibling relationships. Some families find that having the help of siblings allows them to support one another through times of stress and grief, while others feel that the tension that rises between them through the process makes it more difficult overall.
Sibling rivalries and the family dynamic that existed during childhood are hard to shake, no matter how many years you have lived separately from your parents and siblings. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that the demands of caregiving can bring out old patterns as well as unresolved issues and rivalries between siblings. Adult children may even find themselves slipping into the roles they historically held in the family.
Ignoring these challenges and issues may make the caregiving situation even more tense, so most of the time it is best to talk about the issues openly. If you are the primary caregiver, it is important that you let your siblings know that their help is both needed and wanted, while keeping them fully informed about the parent's condition. Be specific in doling out responsibilities, but keep realistic expectations and if you need more help than they are providing tell them and ask for it. If you are trying to care long distance, see if you can be of assistance with financial matters such as paying for Respite Care so your sibling can have a much needed break from their caregiver duties to avoid aggregation, resentment, or burnout.
The New York Times reports that it can help to have a neutral third party such as a social worker, clergy member or another type of mediator work through sibling conflict in order to provide the best care to the senior. If you're unsure about what care is needed bring in a home care agency, such as Interim HealthCare, to conduct an in-home evaluation to help you determine exactly what type of help they need and how much time it would take to provide the care. Sitting down with someone who is not directly involved in the situation can help siblings put the issue at hand into perspective so you can focus on the overall goal - providing the best care possible to your loved one.