Question: I am a live-in caregiver to an 89 year old lady with dementia and beginning Alzheimer’s. The four siblings take turns on the weekends, and her brother comes to visit daily. The siblings do not have a team attitude and are nit-picking and demanding about the care I am giving. They treat me as their servant and the mom’s servant. I don't mind being the mom’s servant, but would like a more team spirit with the siblings. How do I deal with the attitudes from them?
Dr. Amy: I am not sure I understand: is the problem that your client’s siblings don't act as a team, or is it more that they are not respecting you as a member of the team? Both situations are challenging. If it’s the former, I wonder if you can gently talk about the impact that the lack of team spirit is having on their mother. You might also ask whether they have considered family counselling. You can also—again, gently and tactfully— suggest ways in which they can work together more collaboratively. In everything you say, I encourage you to be clear that you are trying to help them give their sister the best care possible. You could also ask them what they think you can do to better support them as a team.
If, on the other hand, your problem is that they are not treating you as a full member of the team, that’s another issue. At the end of the day, we have limited power to change others. Only I can change myself. Only you can change yourself. And only they can change themselves and their way of being with you. Can you inspire change? Maybe. I find that, often, how I present myself in the world and the energy I give out affects what I get back. My attitude seems to influence people with whom I interact.
But it doesn't work all the time.
If the family is making unreasonable demands or treating you with a lack of respect, I encourage you to speak up. This can feel quite awkward, and sometimes it can be difficult to know where to begin. After you ask if they have a few minutes to talk with you (and assuming they say yes), you could begin by:
• Reassuring them that you are committed to giving the best care possible to their sister
• Asking for feedback on your performance and addressing any concerns they may have about your work
• Sharing how you feel when they do whatever it is they are doing that makes you feel like you are not a valued member of the team.
If you stick to clear descriptions of how you feel, I hope that you will be able to shift things for the better. Your feelings are neither right or wrong, good or bad. They are your feelings and cannot be judged.
I hope this helps. Good luck!
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