4 Caregiving Tips for Getting Siblings to Help with Parents

getting siblings to help with parents

Caregiving is more stressful if siblings aren’t supportive

When you’re taking care of your parents, the last thing you need is more stress or resentment because of issues with your siblings. But getting siblings to help with parents can bring up old family arguments, cause sibling rivalries to flare up, and generally add to your burden.


Expert advice on caregiving with siblings

Of course, the goal is to reduce stress and get more support. We found helpful advice in an article from Family Caregiver Alliance. It’s about resolving common issues when caregiving with your siblings. Out of their 8 tips on how to get more support from siblings, we’ve summarized the 4 we found most helpful.



4 tips for getting more support from your siblings

1. Ask yourself what you really want from your siblings
Before you can ask others for something, you need to have figured out what you really want. It’s important to ask yourself what kind of help you really want.

Caregivers often find themselves turning down help that’s offered. If you’ve done that, think about why. Maybe you want help with certain tasks and not others. Maybe you only want help at certain times or just once in awhile. Or maybe you’d like your siblings to help pay for services or for respite care.

This is important because if you’re not exactly sure what you want, you may be sending your siblings mixed messages by sometimes refusing help and other times getting angry because they’re not helping enough.

To improve your chances of getting the help you need:

  • Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking that you shouldn’t have to ask. Your siblings can’t read your mind and might assume that you have everything handled. Plus, if they’ve never been the primary caregiver, they truly don’t know how overwhelming it is.
  • Ask clearly, directly, and for something specific. For example, say “Can you stay with mom every Thursday? I have to get the grocery shopping done for the week and it also gives me some time to myself.”
  • Ask for something realistic. Think about the relationship your sibling has with mom or dad and ask for what they can realistically give. For example, if your sister can’t spend 10 minutes with mom without screaming at her, don’t ask her to spend time. Instead, ask for something that works better, like doing paperwork or bringing groceries.


2. Ask yourself if you want more emotional support from siblings instead of having them do something to help
Caregiving is lonely and isolating and most caregivers feel unappreciated. If what you’d really like is more emotional support, tell them. You could ask them to call once a week or say that it would help if they recognized and appreciated what you’re doing.


3. Stop the cycle of guilt and anger and be careful about how you ask for help
Try to avoid making your siblings feel guilty. It’s tempting because you’re probably feeling angry and resentful. It’s difficult, but taking the high road benefits you because guilt just makes them feel uncomfortable and defensive.

When they feel guilty, they might get angry, minimize or criticize what you’re doing, or avoid you. That will just make you more angry and you’ll want to make them feel even more guilty. That puts everyone in a vicious negative cycle that doesn’t get you the help you need and deserve.

When you do ask for help, be careful of your tone and body language. If you’re angry, that’s what your siblings will see and hear even if the words you use are polite. Asking with a pleasant tone works much better than asking angrily. Like the saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”


4. Get help from a professional outside the family
Caring for parents is an emotional and stressful time and families have long, complicated histories. That combination can make communicating difficult because it’s easy for everyone involved to overreact, misinterpret, or rehash old fights.

If family discussions keep turning into fights and decisions aren’t being made, consider getting a professional to help. People like family therapists, social workers, geriatric care managers, elder mediators, or faith leaders can help families through tough situations. Sometimes it takes an unbiased 3rd party to resolve conflicts, focus conversations on the present, and find solutions that everyone can accept.


Next Step  Get more tips on how to work with siblings when caring for parents at Family Caregiver Alliance


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Elderly Care Decisions

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