3 Excuses From Siblings Who Won’t Assist With Caregiving

In California and across the United States today, most caregivers assisting seniors are family members. More often than not, these uncompensated family caregivers are spouses and adult children. A recurring dynamic when an adult child is a caregiver for an aging parent is a lack of assistance from that person’s siblings. In this regard, there are three more commonplace excuses used by siblings who will not generally assist with caregiving:

  • Claim that a sibling lacks time to assist
  • Claim that a sibling lacks the money to assist
  • Claim that a sibling cannot bear to see a parent in the current condition

Lack of Time

A claim of lack of time by a sibling of a primary caregiver is the most commonly used reason for not providing help. On the surface, this claim seems innocent. However, the underlying implication is that the primary caregiver has all the time in the world to provide caregiving assistance to a senior parent.

Many non-caregivers need to understand that this responsibility can grow from running a few errands each week into a full-time job quickly. Primary caregivers often have to quit paying jobs and turn down promotions and family functions to be available to care for a senior parent. Moreover, these adult-child caregivers of senior parents also have placed their wellness and well-being on the back burner to ensure proper care for the aging family member. While in many cases, on the outside, it may appear as though caregivers have an abundance of time, in most cases, the reality is that they have sacrificed significantly to make the time that is needed.

It is also vital to remember that caregiving is physically and emotionally what fairly can be called a full-time job. Understanding that reality, caregivers need a break. Siblings could (and should) provide that relief. This can be done in person or by offering to help pay for respite care services.

Lack of Money

Another of the excuses siblings use for not being available to assist with caregiving is an alleged lack of money. As mentioned, most caregivers are family members who assist with no compensation.

Taking on the task of caregiving for an aging parent can indeed be financially challenging.

There are several ways that family members can contribute to assisting the sibling in providing primary care to a senior parent.

If financially feasible, a sibling could contribute funds to permit the hiring of a respite in-home care aide to give the primary caregiver a break. Alternatively, a sibling could volunteer to take over caregiving tasks for some time to give the primary caregiver a break.

Cannot Bear to See Parent

The third of the more commonplace reasons why a sibling claims he or she cannot assist with caregiving is based on a claim that he or she cannot bear to see a mother or father in the condition the parent is in. This can be particularly true when a senior parent has a progressive illness like dementia.

Of course, if anyone knows how difficult it is to be with a senior parent with a progressive illness, it is a primary caregiver. In the final analysis, if a sibling seems sincere in claiming that he or she cannot bear to see a parent in his or her current condition, you may need to take that brother or sister at his or her word.

Be Direct With Requests for Assistance

If you want assistance from your sibling regarding caregiving for your parent, you need to be direct with any request you make. You cannot take a passive-aggressive approach if you are sincere in seeking assistance from your brother or sister regarding the needs of your senior parent.

One process you will want to consider is to sit down and create a list of realistic tasks or objectives that you believe your sibling can help you with the undertaking. Making an actual list will prepare you for a conversation about your sibling lending a hand.

Whether you talk on the phone, via email, or in person, be very direct about what you seek regarding assistance. Do not mince your words. For example, tell a sibling that you and your parent need assistance and ask your sibling if he or she is willing to assist. If a sibling says yes, you will have your list ready to ask for specific types of help.

If this task involves time, but they do not have any to spare, then suggest a less time-consuming idea or request a specific (but reasonable) amount of money for someone else to cover one of these tasks instead. If none of these ideas works, ask them what a sibling can contribute financially. Try to be flexible. Coming away with even a tiny amount of help is better than getting angry and continuing to wear yourself out by doing everything on your own. You may need to speak a few times to brainstorm how a sibling can be truly helpful.

Professional Respite Assistance and Additional Support When Siblings Will Not Assist

In closing, you do need to remember that the possibility exists that your sibling or siblings may prove to be unhelpful in any meaningful way when it comes to the care of your parent. If that is the case, you need to accept that reality and consider other alternatives that can provide you with support and assistance in your caregiving efforts. These include:

  • Professional homecare aide
  • Respite care service
  • Adult daycare program
  • Assisted Living

Provided your parent is competent, you need to include your mother or father in the decision-making process. Absent a lack of competence, your parent needs to be the ultimate decision-maker regarding how supplemental assistance for care is accessed.