Question: I have three brothers and sisters but they all live in other parts of the country. I live in the same town as my parents. I'm happy to do things for my parents, but I think my siblings believe they don't have to do anything because they live far away. How do I get them to be more involved in helping me take care of our parents?
Dr. Amy: This is a very common problem. Often, the family member who lives the closest becomes the main caregiver by default. And many people may occupy the role for awhile before they realize what has happened! It's true that you are best placed to help with certain tasks because you live near by. It is necessary for someone to be nearby in an emergency or if there are caregiving tasks that need to be completed in-person, or on a daily or regular basis. For example, if your mother slips in the bathroom, you wouldn't wait for your brother who lives across the country to fly in and get her up!
That said, many tasks related to caregiving are not emergencies. They do not require someone to be available immediately. Many can be managed either long-distance or on a regularly scheduled visit. Some of these tasks include: home repairs that are not emergencies, doctor's visits that are scheduled in advance, financial tasks such as tax preparation, and anything that can be completed on the telephone. Certainly, emotional support and checking-in by phone can be done from anywhere.
Here are some tips to help you involve your siblings in caregiving. If possible, go through these steps with your family members so they don't feel bullied or pushed. You can do this through a phone conference call if you live far apart:
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