Thursday is Thanksgiving! As you start to prepare for the season it can be really exciting to plan for gatherings, but it can also be really intense. Let’s face it family dynamics are complex and can be more so if your parents are aging or sick. Journalist and author of They’re Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy (Bantam, 2010), Francine Russo brings light to some of the mistakes adult siblings make when caring for aging parents. There are 4 mistakes she points out that we see often, and have highlighted them below. We explained our personal experiences with things mistakes and we hope this helps you have a different perspective on sibling dynamics.
In families, there is often one sibling that is the “main caregiver,” or perhaps even an appointed POA (Power of Attorney), however, this does not mean the other siblings are off the hook. Caregiver burnout is a real thing, and something we see every day, if you are not the main caregiver, offer to help your sibling out in other ways… can you help drive your parents to doctor appointments? Can you cook a few meals and freeze them? Can you surprise your sibling with a spa day or a day of respite? It is a family’s job together to take care of aging parents.
If you are your parents’ main caregiver, don’t expect your siblings to volunteer with the help you need. Ask for what you need. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be direct. Oftentimes, we see people take the lead on care, but then resent their other siblings for not stepping in. Then we will have conversations with the other siblings as to why they aren’t helping, and it is as simple as, “well, I didn’t know how without getting in the way.” Give your sibling the opportunity to help, and ask for it.
Falling into familiar family dynamics is easy and comfortable, despite your age. Just because one sibling was “the know it all” as a kid doesn’t mean they “know it all now.” Listen to each other, actually hear each other and plan for your parent’s aging together.
Sibling relationships can be complex even in smooth seas, so added complexity can be just that – complex. Remember to practice grace with yourself and your loved ones and keep an open line of communication. You’re on the same team!