If your parent recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis, there are a lot of questions you’ll likely have to tackle: How will we pay for medical care? What are the best treatment options available to us? How do we find the best asbestos attorney? Who will help take on the caregiving responsibilities for Dad (or Mom) on a daily basis?
This can all feel overwhelming to take on by yourself. If you have siblings, these caregiving responsibilities can be divided among you so you can make sure that your parents receive the best care while you minimize the stress of the situation. If you and your siblings have differences of opinion in how to provide the best care, this can be a source of friction. Still, when it comes to caregiving for an elderly and sick parent, it’s important to resolve these conflicts smoothly.
What do caregiving responsibilities entail?
Caregiving is a broad term that covers several aspects of helping a patient live everyday life while coping with a debilitating condition. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Keeping track of medical appointments.
- Acting as a communicator between the patient and the doctor.
- Administering medications.
- Making sure the patient is getting enough food and rest.
- Helping out with everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, bathing or dressing.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 83 percent of caregivers in the U.S. are actually unpaid family caregivers who may be the spouses, friends or adult children of the patients in need. The typical caregiver is a woman in her mid-40s who provides more than 20 hours of care per week to her elderly mother.
Of course, every caregiving situation is unique. Families that include siblings can find themselves at a real advantage. However, we understand that unresolved family tension can ruin these benefits.
Communication can ensure smooth transitions
Siblings’ abilities to divide caregiving responsibilities among themselves can help make sure that no one person gets overwhelmed. However, it can be easy for old, negative family dynamics to play out without anyone even realizing it. For example, the adult children of a patient may start competing for their parent’s love or approval. Also, siblings may feel compelled to view each other within the roles they once played as children in the same household, such as “the responsible one” or the “ne’er-do-well.” This can be frustrating, particularly since it overlooks the fact that people grow and change as they age.
Another potential source of tension can arise when siblings can’t agree on what kind of care their parents need. This can happen if adult children find it difficult to view their parents as being the ones in the relationship who need to be cared for, which is a perfectly normal conflict. Also, parents may share different information about their health with individual siblings.
The Family Caregiver Alliance has several tips to help siblings work together to care for their ailing parents. First, all individuals need to remember to view each other for who they really are, and not for who they wish the other person is. Next, if one of you is playing the role of primary caregiver and is in a position to ask for help, first ask yourself what it is that you really want: assistance with certain tasks, or merely emotional support? If you do need to ask for something, try not to make your sibling feel guilty about it.
Also, this isn’t a time to get into fights about who has the power-of-attorney. Ultimately, this is the patient’s decision to make, and all of the siblings need to accept the final decision.
And, if you find that some family dynamics are too difficult to set aside, try consulting an outside professional for counseling.