Kendra was at her wit’s end. Although she has a brother, she has been the sole caregiver for her mother for the past two years while holding down a full-time job and fulfilling her roles as a wife and mother. At a recent holiday gathering, Kendra’s aunt and cousin remarked that they didn’t know why caregiving was so difficult for her. Since she was juggling so many hats successfully, they surmised that she must not really have to do that much for her mother. To add insult to injury, they lamented that Kendra’s mother didn’t get to see Kendra’s brother more often.
If you are the sole caregiver for your family member, this scenario may sound all-too-familiar to you. While some relatives are supportive of your caregiving efforts, others may seem perplexed, asking, “What’s the big deal?” In fact, many caregivers say that their dedication and care decisions are questioned by other family members who take no active role in the person’s care. This can be beyond frustrating and demoralizing to caregivers as well as add undue stress to a situation that’s already taking its toll.
One possible solution is to get family members involved, if you can. Seem impossible? Here are some tips to get started:
Have a family meeting. Many times, family members don’t think there’s all that much involved in caregiving because they are simply unaware. Unfortunately, lack of information creates false assumptions that people quickly adopt as truths.
Try organizing a family meeting to share information about your relative’s health status and care needs as well as the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks you complete in order to coordinate and provide care.
Distributing a written agenda or handouts can help provide more concrete information about your caregiving role and is often a wake-up call for other family members. The meeting can also serve as an opportunity to ask family members for help (see below). If not everyone is close by, consider holding a meeting via speakerphone or videoconference.
Bring them to a support group. Another way to introduce family members to your role as a caregiver is to bring them to a caregiver support group. Listening to other caregivers talk about their challenges can help relatives realize that being a caregiver is not all that easy. Find a support group by contacting your local area agency on aging (find yours here).
Ask them for help. A lot of family members are happy to help with caregiving if they are asked for something specific. Often, they are clueless as to what kind of help you need. Try to tailor your requests to each person’s personality and ability to help. For instance, one family member may be able to help financially but is short on time, while another might be in the opposite situation.
Never, ever question your worth as a caregiver. If you try these steps and are still met with criticism or resistance, it’s time to accept that your relatives’ issues lie with them, not you. Do not ever let anyone make you question your worth as a caregiver or doubt whether you are doing everything you possibly can. Keep going to that caregiver support group and reach out to those who truly understand.
For what it’s worth, I understand. So thank you for what you do, every day.
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