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Family Won't Help with Mom? 6 Strategies to Reduce the Drama

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Chances are you spend a good deal of your life planning for the future. You plan your career path. You plan for retirement. But you may never have planned on becoming a family caregiver.

If you’re like many children of senior parents, you became a caregiver in small increments, over the course of time. Maybe it began by providing transportation after Dad gave up the car keys or by making phone calls to the insurance company to straighten out a health claim. As time went on, those favors likely became more frequent and you found yourself providing more and more care until you realized you were spending a significant portion of your free time taking care of Mom and Dad—perhaps much more time than your siblings spent pitching in.

Few people become family caregivers by sitting down with the whole family and creating a plan that covers the who, what, when, where and how of caregiving.

Unfortunately, this lack of planning can lead to family drama and sibling resentment. In discussions within the Caregiver Stress Facebook community, caregivers frequently express frustration over their inability to get other family members to help with Mom or Dad’s care. They often say they feel they became the primary caregiver by default and now shoulder the burden alone.

If you count yourself in that group—or if you want to avoid the sibling squabbles that can arise over family caregiving—take heart. It is possible, to a certain extent, to begin the caregiving conversation over again. These six tips can help you step back from any existing family drama over caregiving and create a plan to help you all move forward in harmony.

1. Start planning well in advance, if possible

It is never too late (or too early) to start the conversation. Even if you are well into the caregiving journey, you can access planning aids to help you move forward with more help from your siblings.

The 50/50 Rule® program, developed by Home Instead Senior Care®, offers resources for developing senior care plans that involve all of the aging family member’s children. Try to have your first conversations on this subject when the eldest sibling turns 40 years old, and continue to talk about how to share the caregiving before your parent even needs it. This way, no one sibling will “back in to” the caregiving role without the support of other family members.

2. Look at the big picture

For some families, the caregiving conversation begins with details: “I can’t possibly help take care of Mom because all of my kids are enrolled in extracurricular activities,” or “I live five hours away, and I’m not sacrificing my vacation time to fly in and take care of Dad.”

Instead of starting the caregiving conversation by diving into the details of everyone’s life, try taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. What types of support does your loved one need right now? What types of care will he or she require in the future? Once you have identified your loved one’s needs, then you can begin a conversation that gets into the details of which sibling can provide which types of support.

3. Take the emotions out of the conversation as much as possible

Siblings share an intimate personal history that sometimes includes baggage: hard feelings, old hurts. Try to set these emotions aside and deal matter-of-factly with your parent’s needs in the moment—and going forward. Keep the focus on achieving goals, not on your family dynamics. When you approach the topic of shared caregiving from a perspective of “here’s what Mom and Dad need, now how can we all provide it?”, the conversation may go more smoothly.

If you find it impossible to have these conversations without tempers flaring, consider hiring a mediator. These professionals can help bring everyone to a resolution without the hurt feelings that may accompany a do-it-yourself approach.

4. Match caregiving tasks with each person’s talents and abilities

Your older brother may balk at helping with caregiving if he is expected to bathe and toilet your mother. Your petite younger sister may not be willing to wrestle Dad’s walker into the car in order to drive him to appointments. Instead of insisting each sibling provide the same types of care, try to match tasks with each person’s abilities and interests. Perhaps your sister who lives far away would be willing to pay Mom’s bills and deal with other financial issues. Or maybe your brother who lives nearby would be happy to take Dad to his doctor appointments. There are many ways to divvy up the caregiving pie.

5. Accept that one person may always provide a disproportionate amount of care

You can’t force your siblings to help. That’s a simple truth. And even when you do get family members to commit to help with caregiving, you still may find you provide a disproportionate amount of that care. Try to come to terms with the fact that this is normal in most family caregiving situations. Acceptance may be easier in the long run than constantly feeling resentful.

If you feel undervalued for the amount of care you provide, try investigating ways to get paid for family caregiving. According to AARP, there are a number of methods that allow your parent to compensate you for the help you provide, including direct payment and tapping a long-term care insurance policy. Even if your loved one can’t afford to pay you much, sometimes receiving a token payment can help you feel valued.

6. Take care of your own emotional needs

High stress, isolation and depression are real dangers of caregiving, especially if you add in family conflict over caregiving issues. Although it can be hard to find time for self-care, be sure to make your own needs a priority. Even five minutes alone in the fresh air, or half an hour with a good book, can help you feel refreshed and recharged. If possible, hire a professional caregiver occasionally so you can get some time to focus on yourself.

How have you “shared the care” with your family members? Leave a comment below!

Last revised: January 5, 2016

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. September 23, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Posted by Barb Prokop

    Okay, my father in law lives with us, it has been two years since his wife had passed away, so we took him in, which we said temporary, he has 6 kids and I have reached out to them if they could take him for a little while, I feel like I have no home any more, me and my husband have no time together in our home. I am to the point where I am angry and sad. I told my husband I am not happy I feel like our marriage is not in a good place anymore. I need some suggestions please.


  2. September 23, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Posted by Barb

    Okay, my father in law lives with us, it has been two years since his wife had passed away, so we took him in, which we said temporary, he has 6 kids and I have reached out to them if they could take him for a little while, I feel like I have no home any more, me and my husband have no time together in our home. I am to the point where I am angry and sad. I told my husband I am not happy I feel like our marriage is not in a good place anymore. I need some suggestions please.


  3. August 19, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Posted by Becky

    My dad is 82 and has struggled for the past 3 years after back surgery. I have tried to be there as much as I can. I work and live 200 miles away. I drive down every every Saturday to visit and my stepmother takes the day off. I take the day off work and drive down other times when I feel I am needed. This has been a rough year where Dad has been in and out of hospitals and rehab so much that Medicare no longer is paying. My stepmother refuses to apply for Medicaid because it would require her to pay down her stocks which she wants to leave to her children. She thinks I should pay for his care at this point. I don't have the money to do this unless I clear out my husband's 401K. I want to do right by my dad but I don't know what to do.


    • September 24, 2019 at 1:57 am | Posted by Susan

      I’m not a lawyer,.... but wonder if your stepmom put her assets into a trust, so not in her name,... if you could then apply for Medicaid. I hate the concept and idea of divorce,... but even if they stayed together it might be an option? I’m a Christian so truly hate that idea,... but I understand the predicament. This probably wouldn’t help unless your stepmom wasn’t in the picture,.. but if either of them are veterans and served I think two days during war time,... he might qualify for aid and attendance money through the VA. It might be 1200 per month. God bless you and guide you, in Jesus name.


  4. August 17, 2019 at 10:48 am | Posted by Anne Beaty

    I've been caring for my 85 year old mother for over 8 years now as well as running the family business single handed.I'm the youngest of 5 children and in spite of repeatedly asking the others for help with mother and running of the business not one of them has stepped up to help. They have always been unfair and at times very spiteful with put downs, and generally nasty comments about anything I do with regards to the business or mothers care.I've recently moved into a new house with mother and my partner and her son. Although it is very high level of care needed as she is unable to walk after a fall in a care home while she was there for a short while to recover from illness and now dimenta is taking hold of her. I've reached the point now with all 4 of them and decided to cut them loose as they cause me nothing but more stress on top of all the other stress. They even have the neck to question if my partner is getting paid to care for our mother! It's all about money to them which I find very cold and disrespectful.


  5. August 8, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Posted by Ray Moral

    First I feel for all of you, I am a son-in-law in this picture, and my wife and her sister share parents, my wife the mother and the sister the father, unfortunately the rest of their family are a bunch of bums. The father just passed away and all hell is breaking out, these idiots that have done nothing are now coming around trying to take her away as she owns houses and a good bank account.. I am sick of it, If I felt that one of the idiots would do a good job I would pass this on to them in a heart beat, my mother in law is a nightmare. I am trying to convince her to provide power of attorney and have a living will so that the animals are kept at bay. I feel sorry for her, she already has so much to worry about and now this? stinks hope she agrees with us and we can then make moves to keep the leaches away. Thank you, Frustrated one


  6. May 14, 2019 at 9:42 pm | Posted by Randi Schellhammer

    My husband and I are dealing with my mother in law who has refused to do and type of pre arrangements for her care. She won’t make any legal arrangements or power of attorney for her medical care or her house. All she say is she’s not leaving her home to go into any type of facility. Now she is in moderate stages of dementia which I have been noticing for the past year and my husband has been in denial saying she just took some type of anti anxiety med which is causing her to be “off”. My husband and I are dealing with her daily needs along with a caregiver who comes in the morning for a few hours to stay with her and do light housekeeping and again in the early evening to get her ready for bed. My husband has been modifying her house with ADA toilets, grab bars, railing etc. My sister in law seems to be running things from afar , sending texts , watching her bank account but rarely showing up for the activities of daily living. Now she’s accusing my husband of taking money from my mother in law’s account which he does do under my mother in law’s directions. Mind you she doesn’t think there is anything wrong so she is going about her daily life as usual. She even wants to buy a new car but we have hidden her car keys so she can’t drive. But she continues cooking and baking and we try to be there everyday to help. I guess I’m just upset that my husband and I have been there every day and the other 2 siblings are basically absent but now my husband is accused of taking money. I’m angry because he won’t even take gas money from her for all the running around that he does . I pack up all her medicine every week and put them in pill packs because the home health aides are not allowed. My husband does all the handy man chores around the house that saves her money. We’re not talking about Lot of money either. 800.00 for 1 month of groceries, gas , lawn care for 2 properties, dog grooming, medications for the dog and herself. We leave the receipts on the table but I’m not sure what my mother in law does with them. She doesn’t really think my sister in law should be nosing into her account anyway. By the way my husband name is on the account as he has been the one to be there every day checking on her. When I saw the text from my sister in law about all of this I called her and told her to come home and do all of this herself because we’re done. I’m livid and my husband won’t defend himself. The other brother just threw him under the bus and said I haven’t been in mom’s account in 3 weeks. Yeah we’ll he’a been MIA with all the help too!


  7. May 13, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Posted by kathy

    Hi, my mom is 82 now and lives alone. She has had mental health issues, narcissism and all together very difficult our whole lives. I have 6 brothers and sisters, we are very close. We are trying to figure out a rational plan with mom as she has severe mobility issues and yet won't take our help as she is always mad at us.We are trying to talk to her about power of attorney or making a plan. We tried to get her one of those alarms to wear if you fall, but she cancelled the installation of the technology for it in her house. It feels like she tries to sabotage everything we try to do for her.I am at a loss. I am just waiting to hear that she has fallen and is in the hospital. I feel like there is nothing else we can do. She would never let a personal support worker in her home so that is not a solution. I am going to start an aging parent/caregiver group as I need support. I live away from my family also. Any advice or suggestions? thank you.


    • July 1, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Posted by Carol

      You mother probably has some type of dementia, my mother was difficult all my life but became moreso over the past few yesrs, she's 85. I took her to a neurologist and got meds, they haven't helped much but at least I have a plan. You have to be stern nurse at times, believe me I am the only one there for my mother, at least you have your siblings, mine backed out completely. My mother is very hateful, as she has FTD - a form of dementia that changes who you the end it will be assisted living bc no one can take care of someone with that issue. right now she has a full time live in caregiver but with her condition not sure how long that will last, meds are your best bet and we had to give consequences....if you don't or wont' help yourself you will have to go live somewhere where they can take care of you.


    • July 2, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Posted by Jacki

      We bought our elderly mother an Alexa. If she fell, or needed anything, all she had to do was say outloud, "Alexa, call (name)," and it would call that person. Not sure of details of how it was set up or how it worked off the Wi-Fi as a sibling took care of that part.


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