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Top 3 Excuses From Siblings Who Don't Help With Caregiving

Unfair as it may seem, even in families of many adult children, one sibling generally becomes the primary caregiver for the aging parents. In many families, such as mine, this person lives the closest to the parents and/or is most suited to the task of caregiver. In my case, it was both. This fact didn't keep my sister, who lived about 50 miles away, from coming to town nearly every weekend to see our parents and help me out. However, in some families, this relatively short distance would be enough of an excuse to keep the "caregiving" efforts of the distance sibling to an occasional, convenient visit.

Many caregivers ask how to respond to siblings who, after being directly and distinctly asked for help, either skirt responsibility with excuses, or become outright nasty if they are asked for assistance in a direct manner.

Let's look at a few examples and contemplate responses. These can, perhaps, trigger ideas about how to handle your unique circumstances:

"I Don't Have the Time"

This excuse is probably the most often used reason for not helping out. The implication in this excuse is that you, the person who has taken on the role of primary caregiver, do have time.

Caregiving can grow from just running a few errands for the elder into a full-time job. Many people have quit paying jobs, or not accepted a promotion, in order to be available to care for an aging parent. From the outside, it looks as though this person has the time. In most cases, the person has made the time, often at great sacrifice.

Unless there's a family agreement, family caregivers don't get a salary. That not only affects their current financial status, but their future, because family caregivers aren't paying into Social Security if they can't work. Therefore, those of us who have given years to caregiving often find our own later years threatened by poverty. Yet, many of us stay home from a paying job to care for an elder; thus we "have the time."

Having the time is also relative in that caregiving is emotionally, if not literally, a 24/7 job. Most caregivers need a break from the stress of the constant responsibility of being the primary caregiver. Siblings could provide that relief, either in person or by offering to help pay for respite care in the form of in-home help or adult day care.

When this option is suggested to siblings, some jump on board, many don't.

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

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