Primary Caregivers and Siblings Who Refuse to Help
Updated: Jun 29
Taking care of a dementia patient or an aging parent can be a task and a half. As we grow up, we take on responsibilities of our own. It can be hard to dedicate your time elsewhere with the pressures of work, family, and social life. A caregiver agrees to take on the responsibility of a whole other person, and that can't be easy. When the person under your care is a parent, you want to do your best. However, the role of the primary caregiver is fraught with challenges.
Caregiver stress is a real phenomenon. It can take a toll on your mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and even burnout. This mental exhaustion doubles when you don't have any support, especially from your siblings when taking care of a parent. While it may be hard for you to digest this, siblings may politely refuse to help you, the primary caregiver, which can exacerbate the burden on your shoulders.
Reasons To Become A Caregiver
The first question that comes into play here is: why did you become a caregiver? The survey below highlights some of the reasons why people choose to become a caregiver. If the patient is your parent, you might have adopted the role of a primary caregiver out of love, as 63% of people chose to do. 43% of people said they have the time and capacity to take on the responsibility. This easily means that while you may feel you're able to do this, your siblings might feel they have neither time nor the mental capacity to do so. Moreover, many people also stated that no one else was able or willing to do this, which could have been the case with you too.
No matter what made you adopt the role of primary caregiver, you need to understand that the same factors don't apply to your siblings. This can be devastating to accept, but you have to adapt to the situation. Otherwise, you're fighting for a lost cause that isn't going to benefit you and might even strain your relationship with your siblings.
Excuses Siblings Might Give for Refusing to Help With Caregiving
When siblings refuse to help you take care of the parent, it can be hard to digest. Unfair as it may seem, the burden of responsibility falls on the person who lives closest while the others excuse themselves from the responsibility. Here are a few reasons your siblings may give for helping out minimally or not at all. Knowing what to do in such an event or how to react depends on the reason your siblings give.
1. Lack of Time
As a primary caregiver, you may be forced to turn down promotions or quit your job altogether to tend to your parent. It may seem selfish that your siblings aren't even willing to do so much as run errands to help you while you're doing so much.
If this is the excuse they give, you might suggest that they help you out financially, like in-home care and for necessities the parent needs.
2. Financial Constraints
Your siblings may decline to help you out due to financial constraints. While this may or may not be true, it's not the best idea to lose your patience. It will only deteriorate your relations with them and make them retract from all responsibilities altogether.
You might sit with them and decide how they can offer their time or emotional support to the parent by scheduling a phone call or a visit with them every week. This will give you the respite you need as the primary caregiver.
3. It's Too Overwhelming
Younger siblings often decline to help you take care of aging or ill parents because they can't bear to see their parents like that. While seeing parents struggle with things they could do before is emotionally taxing, it doesn't help the situation.
If they use this excuse, you might look for support elsewhere. After all, the process is emotionally overwhelming for you as a primary caregiver. But that doesn't mean you evade the responsibility. Talking to your sibling or trying to convince them could go either way: they might understand, but there's also a chance it might provoke or anger them.
Tips to Manage When Siblings Refuse to Help
Caregiving is already a tough job. You don't want to make it harder by taking your siblings' refusal to help to heart. This will deteriorate your mental condition and even affect your care towards your parents. Here are some ways to manage caregiving with unhelpful siblings.
Lower Your Expectations
Harboring expectations that your siblings can't fulfill will leave you disappointed. These are people you've grown up with, so you really can't digest that they could leave you with all the responsibility. One way to cope with this is to simply tone down your expectations. Don't keep begging or convincing them because if they wanted to help, they would have.
Offer A Practical Solution
If your sibling gives an excuse, you can always devise a practical solution that is doable for them. For example, if they live far away, you could ask them to help out financially, alleviating that burden off you. If they still refuse, it's better to let go than spend your time and energy trying to convince them.
Enlist Help of A Memory Care Home
If you feel you're unable to handle the immense responsibility as a primary caregiver without any support from siblings, you can also consider a memory care home for your parent. Most primary caregivers experience burnout, and this tends to take a toll on their mental and physical health. Memory care is a viable option as they have better facilities, trained staff, and 24/7 supervision to relay the best care to your parent/s.
The role of a primary caregiver comes with several responsibilities that take away time from your own life. Unhelpful siblings make caregiving even harder. If you are surrounded by unsupportive family members who are unable to help, you can consider hiring external help. Consider joining a support group for emotional support and consider a memory care home if your duties are overburdening
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