How can I get my passive sibling to help me with the care of our elderly parents?

13 Comments

Oh yeah, I know--isn't that just infuriating! My only sibling, my older brother, only lived a half-hour away from Mom & Dad and I lived over 400 miles, yet I was the one who gave up my life for a year to go take care for them… but… I'm not bitter about it!

I remember being so angry all the time and thinking, "Hey, these are his parents too!" I finally realized that all those negative emotions weren't helping me a bit--and I really had to walk a mile in his shoes. If I had it to do over again, here's what I'd do ASAP:

First, I'd realize my brother (9 years older) had a completely different upbringing than I did and that he hadn't gotten the love I'd gotten from our controlling father. I'd remember all the rages Dad put him through--and realize you just can't make anyone do something they don't want to do.

Instead of asking my brother to help with the hands-on caregiving, I'd ask him to help ME with a few errands and tasks, which would have been much more comfortable for him.

I'd make a long list of all the things I needed to get done and then the next time I'd see him, or a family member or friend asked, "Ohhh, I am so sorry about what you are going through--is there anything I can do?" I'd pull out a copy of the list and say, "Thank you, yes, there is. Here's a list—pick one!"

  • Have the car serviced, tires rotated, filled with gas
  • Have the broken lamp that Dad threw at me fixed
  • Repair the curtains that are coming off the rods around the house from Dad pulling on them
  • Shop for items I just don't have time for, like getting a new battery for my watch
  • Have the folks' clothes altered, pants shortened, buttons sewed on, mending done
  • Garden, prune trees, clear the yard
  • Take stuff to the dump
  • Organize the pantry, garage, closet, drawers
  • Pick up dry cleaning, pharmacy, groceries
  • Call and write notes to relatives and friends to update them on Dad
  • Make some meals for the freezer
  • Rent a carpet shampooer and clean the carpet
  • Schedule appointments
  • Do Internet research on medications, healthcare products, diseases, nursing homes
  • Evaluate the best local adult day care programs
  • Take me out to lunch!
  • Etcetera, etcetera and so forth.

Jacqueline Marcell is a former television executive who was so compelled by caring for her elderly parents (both with early Alzheimer's not diagnosed for over a year) she wrote "Elder Rage." She is also an international speaker on elder care and host of the popular Internet radio program "Coping With Caregiving."

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13 Comments

I wonder if you might be able to get help from the place that he seems to understand the most - his synagogue? Can you speak with the rabbi about the issue and ask for his help in getting your brother to understand that helping to care for his parents is a moral obligation? Not to mention the love that they have shown him during his life needs to be reciprocated?
My elderly parents have 6 children all living relatively nearby, and only 3 of us are willing to actually take the time to help. Everyone has a life, a job, a family and other responsibilities but they are our parents and sacrificed everything so that we would be raised happy and healthy. Now that the time has come to give back to them, not everyone wants to pitch in and help. 2 of my brothers live in the same city as my parents but don't want to help. My boyfriend does more for my dad than his own sons he has loved and cared for for over 40 years. I don't know what they've told themselves in their heads that makes this okay but it must be a doozy. Its sad, but at least there others of us to care for them. I feel bad for my 2 brothers because you reap what you sow ... and when its their turn to be cared for their children will have learned from their example.
My father in law lives with my husband and I on a part time basis, he has 7 living children who all live in the same town as he does except for my husband and only he and his sister are the sole caregivers, his other children are selfish and will not help with the care of their father, they are more concerned about the intrusion in their daily routines and how much time he takes out of their lives, they do not take into consideration that he is 88 years old, his eyesight is failing, he has arthritis and that he does not have a lifetime in front of him, they should be cherishing the fact that he lived a long life and in his golden years they should be there for him like he was when they were growing up. I worry for my husbands sanity sometime because of the stress of dealing with his Dad is somewhat difficult and stubborn behaviour, he expects everyone to be at his beck and call and will rise at the crack of dawn expecting everyone to be up at the same time, as well as his siblings refusal to help out. My father in law likes his beer and cigarettes and would drink and smoke to his hearts content but he has health issue's that would be agravated by this kind of activity if not kill him! my in laws are useless and can't even be bothered to watch him , he needs a constant routine and a stable home and he does not have either, it is suggested that he enter an old folks home, but he does not want to go becaue he thinks that it would be like "jail", My Husband and I don't have a life anymore and his family just does not care one bit. We are beside ourselves with the inlaws selfish behaviour and the only person suffering for it is dad, does anyone have any ideas on how to convince dad that he does need to be in a home? He needs a routine where someone will be there when he rises early in the morning and give him his medication and he will have someone on call when the need arises, my husband is a seasonal worker who leaves town to work and I work full time as well as my sister in law, the time will come when there will not be anyone around to care for him we are looking into the future for his care but cannot convince him to go to the home let alone have his other children watch him, we are getting desperate for a solution.