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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
My sister and I have always gotten along but she never had a good relationship with our mother. I’m beginning to resent doing all of the caregiving for my mom, and my sister uses the excuse that mom “wouldn’t want her help, anyway.” What do I do to keep my relationship with my sister?
It sounds like the first thing you need to do is reframe the question of “who needs the care?” Looking at the situation on the surface, it seems like the answer is “your mom,” which allows your sister to rationalize why it’s not her responsibility to help provide the care. All siblings have a different relationship with each of their parents and regrettably, sometimes those relationships can be like a broken glass with shards of anger and wounded feelings from years past. In those instances, even if a sibling offers to care for an elderly parent, the parent may refuse it or insult them during the process. On the other hand, the adult child could be the one hurling insults, resulting in the dependent parent feeling victimized by the experience. Either way, it’s not a healthy scenario and it is not your responsibility to fix it.
So back to that question of “who needs the care?” If you look closely at the situation, the answer is “you.” The goal is to get your sister to refocus and realize that her sister -- with whom she does have a good relationship that’s worth preserving – needs caregiver support. Rather than getting into a debate as to whether or not your sister should reconcile with your mother, or decide who is right or wrong, take the following steps:
Step One: Assess your caring of an elderly parent
This should give you a clear appreciation of all you are doing and what other things need to be done. Looking at the lists, is there anything on them your sister could do that will give you, the caregiver, support but not involve interacting directly with your mother?
Step Two: Presenting the caregiving opportunity to your sister
Approach your sister in a positive way. Don’t guilt-trip her or make her feel that you’re the superior child because you’re doing so much more than she. Consider saying, “I’m starting to find that caring for mom is affecting (whatever it is) and that I’m just not able to keep up with it all alone. I understand that you feel that ‘mom wouldn’t want your help, anyway,’ and I appreciate why you feel that way. There are ways that you could help me and it wouldn’t even involve mom directly. I could sure use my sister.” Give her an opening to respond. Hopefully, she’ll ask how she can help and give you the caregiving support you need.
Share with her the caregiving tasks you’ve been performing that do not involve direct interaction with your mother – like scheduling doctor’s appointments, handling the paperwork, making meals (she could drop them off at your place). She could make calls to the local Area Agency on Aging (1.800.677.1116 or eldercare.gov) and other agencies to see if your mom qualifies for benefits and services. Or she could go online to find out at benefitscheckup.org.
If she’s the type that will respond well to seeing your list, then share it or just identify tasks on it when you have the conversation.
You and your sister might decide it might make sense for you to share the costs of having someone come over and perform some of the tasks that you are currently doing. Non-medical senior care companies can do many caregiver tasks and even provide companionship to your mom, if she needs it. You’ll find them in the Yellow Pages, usually under home care agencies or home health.
This approach allows your sister to become a partner in your caregiving. Just remember to keep the focus on you. Even if she says something like, “But mom hates me and I really don’t like her, why should I help?” remain calm and reassure her that you understand how difficult this can be and respond “but this is really about us and I’m the one needing you.”
If you remain silent, it is far more likely that your relationship with your sister will become strained and perhaps, just as broken as her relationship with your mother. Caregiving is stressful and it won’t take long for you to feel resentful that it’s all on your shoulders. You deserve your sister’s support and she deserves the chance to provide it – by being asked for it.
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