Siblings can be like night and day. Our personalities are as different as individual interests, passions and professions. When it comes to caring for parents in their old age, it should come as no surprise that our ideas of how to provide the best care for them can be startlingly different.
This is a personal story of overcoming resentment toward siblings as a family caregiver. When we see things only from our own perspective and allow negative thoughts to create unhealthy outlooks and attitudes, so much emotional damage can result.
As my parents began to reach their elder years and needed assistance, my siblings and I realized the need to provide support in some manner. I held all of the responsibility of seeing them every day, being involved in their comings and goings, and then when they became markedly less independent, I was the one who drove them to appointments, assessed their medical and personal needs, ensured that they were eating, and so much more.
My siblings live over a thousand miles away. I was jealous of the freedom they had. I was angry that I had all of the responsibilities, and that my mother emotionally clung to me like a six-year-old. It was as if I did not get to choose my role as a family caregiver.
My siblings are not emotionally detached from our parents by any means. They love them and me. They care about our well-being and are thankful for the responsibilities I have taken on. However, there is another side of this story that needs to be told.
In my particular situation, I held on to resentment for a number of years because I didn't think my siblings were doing their part to care for our parents.
But I did nott always realize this.
By the grace of God, I somehow came to the realization that my idea of caregiving is just that, MINE. It dawned on me one day that I was the one who committed to having our parents move in with me; my siblings never forced this decision. I was the one who thought the only way parents should age is in their own home or that of a child. This was MY idea, and forcing MY idea on my siblings simply was not fair. They, in turn, allowed the decision because of their empathy and the fact that they could not be physically present.
What's more, both siblings are male (a third has since passed away). I believe there is a difference among male and female children that affects how we care for our aging parents. While this may be a "hasty generalization," and there may be plenty of doting, nurturing male adult children out there, I have found that women, by virtue of their gender, tend to be the caregivers. More often than not, they carry the guilt associated with the limitations of their caregiving and are more willing, albeit subconsciously, to wear themselves down by caring for their parents and neglecting their own needs at times.
Unfair as it may seem, I believe women are wired this way, and we cannot necessarily expect our male siblings to adopt these characteristics.
I know of women who have female siblings and still find themselves carrying most or all of the weight, due to indifference, or physical distance. Some adult children do not want to be involved and don't seem to care that all of the responsibility is placed on a brother or sister. Many people simply cannot bear to see their parents grow old, so they relinquish all responsibility to a sibling. I cannot imagine having to deal with those scenarios, and I hold complete empathy for adult children in those types of situations.
However, I have been able to let go of destructive emotions that only hinder what I CAN do for my aging parents. Letting go of the anger, resentment and jealousy that not only came between us, but also harmed my own well-being, was a life-changing decision.
I have a sense of inner peace now that previously did not exist. I am grateful that I was able to realize that MY way is not the only way, and that my brothers are not at fault for not embracing MY choices.
I think it took the actual experience of seeing my parents decline, and understanding what it really entails to keep your aging parents at home before I could let go of my anger, resentment and pre-conceived notions. Doing so has allowed me to be kinder to myself, and at the same time better focus on the issue at hand: caring for my parents.