The one question I hear most often is “How do I get other family members to help with the caregiving?”
Asking for help is as much art as science, but before you start writing off your siblings or other family members as being unwilling to help, you first need to assess your asking ability.
“I need help caring for Mom (or Dad)” is not usually going to produce the desired results. A general question like that, especially if it’s made in the midst of a larger conversation, is difficult to decipher if you’re on the receiving end. It’s simply too open-ended. The recipient is more likely to ignore it rather than get mired down in something too large to handle.
On the other hand, a specific question, “When you’re here this summer would you please take Dad on at least two half-day outings?” is both specific and clear. It’s also more difficult to turn down. That doesn’t mean that your sibling won’t turn you down however, so you’ll want to have a few skills in your repertoire to help him accept your request.
Here are some ideas:
- Be specific. “Could you please bring a meal for Mom and I at 5:00 on Friday? We need two portion and please don’t bring anything with onion in it, Mom can’t eat onion any more.” This will work far better than “could you bring a meal by sometime?”
- Be realistic. Asking your sibling to drive 300 miles every week so you can have a day off isn’t going to work. Can he come once a month or once a quarter? What about having him phone Dad once a week?
- Be creative. What are your siblings’ skills? If they are good with computers, enlist them in making and sending cards on a regular basis, or producing short videos or photos to share with your parent.
- Be flexible. If you ask your sister to bathe Mom weekly, but she doesn’t want (or is not able) to, then ask: what would she like to do on a weekly basis for Mom? The important piece here is not the bathing, but that your sis is engaged in Mom’s care on a regular basis. Perhaps she’d be willing to take Mom to a movie, shopping, or read to her. You can hire or find a professional volunteer through organizations like Visiting Nurses Association to help with the bathing.
- Be inclusive. A sibling who lives a long distance from home doesn’t have to be automatically excluded from helping. Ask if they’d be willing to help track finances or insurance or any of the dozen paperwork threads that are wrapped around caregiving. That 300-mile driving distance can be overcome with technology and your willingness to ask for help, even from a distance.