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How to get family support for the fatigued caregiver?

Posted Apr 29 2011 4:06pm
04/29/2011 By ~ Sandy Leave a Comment

One of the most frustrating things about caring for an aging parent or parents, is getting adult brothers and sisters to help. When you’re the only caregiver for someone, handling the burden alone can be overwhelming emotionally.

The reasons for failure by other family members to step-up and help are numerous and varied. I remember my own brother saying he was so glad I had no problems with Mom’s dementia because he just couldn’t handle it. It got on his nerves. Truthfully, it got on my nerves too but she was my Mother and I’d do anything to help her.

I love my brother and I knew he would do anything to help Mom too.  If  I had not taken Mom to live with me, he would have taken her to live with him in a second. His words were simply his way of saying, “Thank you.” Mom would be better off with me and I already knew that.

Before you grow angry and stressed by the lack of family support, carefully examine the type of support you really need. If you aren’t clear about what you need, your siblings may see your complaints as nothing more than moaning and groaning. Ask for what you really need. Do you need financial support? Do you need respite time for yourself? Or do you need a listening ear when your family member’s behavior gets on your nerves. Ask for what you need, don’t give a long list of complaints that no one could fill.

  • If you need financial help, be specific. “Mom’s meds cost $350 week. Medicaid covers $200. I need some financial help with the balance.”
  • If you need respitewhat kind? “Sometimes I need to share, I need someone to listen while I vent.” “I can’t handle caregiving all day everyday. If someone could take Mom for lunch, dinner, a night at your place instead of mine–I’d be so grateful.”

Once your siblings know what you need, it’s wise to try and understand a few of their fears, or reasons they may avoid your cry for help. It will be helpful if you can bring them together as a group and negotiate, each person giving what they can in the way of finances, respite care, knowledge, etc.

  • While one family member may be struggling with finances, they may agree to take the ill person shopping, or for over-night visits; another may agree to pay more than his share financially but be unable to offer respite help.
  • A sibling may not accept the diagnosis of dementia, but after hearing some of the stories of strange behavior from other siblings finally accepts the diagnosis. On that note, you should always keep meticulous records from their doctor, proof of diagnosis and medications prescribed. And including all family members in monthly updates is always a good idea.

With a family meeting and group attendance, you are more likely to have positive results. Still, there will always be those who refuse to help or disagree with any strategy planned for the loved one.

In that case, it’s in your best interest to accept their choice and move on. You can literally make yourself sick worrying about someone else’s neglectful attitude but you can’t change it. For your own sanity accept it.

Everyone has a few friends who are closer than family. And with close friends, there are always a few who would gladly help with our burdens whether it be a listening ear or an afternoon off while they spend some time with our loved one.

My Mom had a large immediate family, plus an extra- large second family from her most recent marriage, yet the person I recall most is one sweet sister-in-law. While my Mom lived in the “group home,” this dear woman took my Mom out for lunch once a week until my Mom was too ill to leave the “home.”  I’ll always be grateful to her for the pleasure she gave my mom and me.



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