The Doer and the Dud

When it comes to family dynamics, especially during stressful times such as caring for a aging parent, adult children sometimes revert to child like behaviors. They often take on roles that fit their birth order, life styles, personalities, sex and belief systems.

The child who lives far away often ‘swoops’ in and challenges or criticizes the local sibling for decisions or outcomes. The emotionally distant son or daughter, trying yet again to receive approval from their parent, often becomes bossy and overbearing to his or her siblings.

Let’s face it, caregiving is tough. It’s tough for those who live close because they are responsible for the lion’s share of the physical care and arrangements. It’s tough for those who don’t live close because they often feel out of the loop or the decision making, and consequently feel guilty.

Factor in the financial needs for mom’s or dad’s care, and brothers and sisters sometimes begin looking into each other’s figurative backyards to see what they can/should be providing in the way of financial support if necessary.

Caring for an elderly parent is often a breeding ground for playing out past emotional issues.  This need not be the case. There are plenty of jobs for everyone.  One of the keys to managing elder care is the distribution of responsibilities.  Only children often complain of not having anyone to share the responsibility with and children with multiple siblings often complain of being overburdened, resentful, and unappreciated.

The key word in caregiving should be CARE. People care in different ways. Some believe that giving money is the way to show love. Others  believe that putting one’s own life on hold and becoming a martyr is the only way to show love. They are both wrong. Caregivers need to manage their resources of time and energy, and balance physical, emotional and financial realities.

There are many opportunities for a long distant sibling to be involved in meaningful ways. There may be bills to be paid that can be done remotely, researching care options online and even the responsibility of food shopping can often be done via computers.  Local caregivers will still be intimately involved in such things as medical appointments and coordination of services, but these activities need not be all-consuming. There are professional geriatric care managers to help families navigate the system. There are licensed home care companies which provide skilled, responsible and quality in home care services. There are eldercare attorneys and geriatricians, all trained to assist in care-giving.

Even with the availability of professional resources to assist, it is seldom the case that all siblings feel equally satisfied with their own and each other’s contribution.  There is often someone who feels they have done it all (the doer) and that their sibling(s) did little or nothing (the dud).

The key to managing these feelings lies in getting back to basics……Everyone does the best that they can.

We often equate doing with loving but that isn’t always the case.  If tasks are done in a grudging or angry manner, the act of giving is tainted. It is done with a sense of obligation, not joy.  Conversely, if a phone call from the out of state sibling brings laughter and joy to an aging parent, this is a job well done!

Care-giving for a frail aging parent shouldn’t be a time to play out ‘Mom loves you Best”. It should be a time for each family member to do their own personal best, and not judge each other.  After all, how many parents really benefit when their children are fighting?

~ Candy Blau