• It is common that one adult child of a family assumes most of the responsibility for the care on the elders. Often, it’s the one who lives closest to the elder, but not always. Susan, a woman I interviewed for Minding Our Elders, lives 300 miles away from her mother, while she has two siblings that live in her mother’s town. Yet, Susan is “it.” While she was the natural choice to do the financial work involved, she also became the one who took her mother in for cataract surgery, kept her mother in her home to do the daily drops, figured out care for her Alzheimer’s stricken mother – in the home town where her siblings lived. Is there any wonder that she gets the “why me” feeling?
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    Many of us have siblings who are helpful. However, many of us have siblings who “just can’t handle it” or are “too busy” or live a great distance from the elder. If all families could get together and divide up the responsibility – have a productive family meeting, and see who is best at what – well, we’re dreaming, aren’t we? That would be the ideal, and there are some families who can do this. Many can’t. And even for the ones that are healthy enough to divide up the load, someone has to be the first contact if an elder falls. Someone has to be the leader. All too often, that someone does the bulk of other caregiving, as well.

    An occasional bout of self-pity is permitted. If it gets to be a huge issue, then looking at hiring help may be an option. You may need to sit the siblings down and say, “I can’t do all of this. If you can’t be here to help, then can you help with money? Can we pay someone? Can we come to an agreement on what needs to be done, and then call the agencies that offer these services?”
    You aren’t being selfish if you wonder why you are caring the load, while siblings either ignore the issue from afar, or worse, criticize how you do things. You aren’t being selfish is you sometimes wonder, “Why me?” That is a clue that the whole caregiving scenario needs to be re-assessed by your family, and a more equitable arrangement figured out. Bitterness and resentment on the part of the caregiver will have a negative impact on the elder, no matter how carefully it is covered up. And the caregiver has a responsibility to her or his immediate family. A caregiver needs to practice self-care, to mentally and physically survive the challenges ahead.
Published On: August 24, 2006