How to Talk to Family Members That Aren’t Contributing to the Work

This is a sponsored post from Freedom Care in New York.

When it comes to caring for our aging parents and family members, the responsibility usually falls to one person. It’s not because others don’t want to help, but there is usually one person in the family, often the oldest sibling, who feels the need to step up and take care of their ailing parents. But while the role is adopted with an open heart and good intentions, after a while, it can feel like a burden and resentment and anger can cloud the work that is being done. It’s important for family caregivers to be able to express that need for help to other family members who may not have the desire to help, or have flat out said they don’t want to help. These are tough conversations, but they are vital to the health, well-being, and success of the caregiving experience. Here is how to talk to family members that aren’t contributing to the work of caring for aging parents.

 Make a List

 The first thing you’ll want to do is sit down and make a list of all the ways that the family has helped out during the time in which you have been caring for your parents. It might seem easier to just list all the ways they are dropping the ball, but if you want to have a successful conversation in which other family members may be inclined to take some of the workload off you, then you’ll want to approach them from a positive perspective. Saying things to them such as, “I really appreciate it when you take Mom to the salon. It gives me a break and she enjoys seeing you.” This kind of positive talk lets your family members know that you are not blaming them for what they aren’t doing, and it might help them get on board much easier when they see the product of their effort.

Get Everyone to Agree to Meet

 Next, you’ll want to include all of the family members that are local to you and even Skype in the family members that are not there in person. It’s important that everyone has updated information about what is going on and where help is needed. You’ll want to send a note to everyone asking for a few minutes of their time to talk about your parents. Let them know that it is to discuss ongoing care and how everyone can contribute, even if they are not local. For example, siblings that live out of town and cannot make it to visit on a regular basis could be encouraged to call once a week. Little efforts go a long way.

Start Slow

When you get everyone together, you’ll want to begin the conversation by informing them of what a day in the life of your parent looks like. And describe – without malice – how you help them on a daily basis. You can talk about how you have been able to rely on programs like CDPAP, or outside care but that additional family help would improve the situation even more. You can bring up your list of things that need help with and ask for the help you need. If you present in a passive aggressive way, or you don’t actually come right out and ask for the help, you won’t get it. Don’t guilt anyone into helping. That only creates more animosity in the family. Instead tell the family members what work needs to be done and ask someone to volunteer to help. Don’t mention the fact that you had to ask for the help or that you shouldn’t have to ask for help. Approach the situation from a position of humility and admit that you need the help.

Family members are more inclined to help when they feel like they are doing it from a position of contributing to the success of your parent’s old age. If they feel like they are “doing you a favor” you can bet that they won’t repeat the offer. But if you make it clear that the help is needed on an ongoing basis, you are more likely to succeed.

Create a Plan for Future Success

Finally, you’ll want to get together again with the family members who have agreed to help and create a plan for the coming months. Ensure that every person knows when and where they need to help and come up with a system of trading off of responsibilities so that everyone can still lead flexible lives. While you might not have had an opportunity to trade off work until now, don’t make anyone feel badly about that. Just thank everyone for their offer to help. Having a plan when you go into tough conversations can help keep your focus on what is really important here: the care of your aging parent. Keep the lines of communication open and be honest about what you are capable of doing on your own and family will hopefully step up to help you out.


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