There are a number of reasons that conflicts occur when multiple family members are involved in caregiving. Hopefully, there is a common goal of meeting a senior’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs in a dignified manner and within a safe environment. How to meet this goal is where the situation can quickly deteriorate. Each family member will approach a caregiving situation with a unique viewpoint, based on personal beliefs and experience, past and present roles within the family, and current life situation. Even families who have always had strong relationships can experience tension when faced with the responsibilities of caregiving.
A common issue is the unwillingness of siblings to “step up to the plate” and make a contribution to the caregiving tasks.
The (Carlisle, PA) Sentinel’s recent article, titled "Elder Care: Keeping family conflict to minimum," explains that even though no one can be forced to participate as a caregiver, there are some ways to approach the situation that may yield more positive results.
First, you should make sure that the whole family has a solid understanding about the care needs of the individual, as some seniors may tell a different story, depending on which relative they have spoken to last. The original suggests soliciting objective information from third parties, like a physician, close friend, or a neighbor, in order to have more information to show the need for care.
Get everyone involved and let them take some ownership in the issue: allow all of the family members to offer ideas on care needs and carefully consider each suggestion. Maybe your brother’s suggestion isn’t exactly how the primary caregiver would handle that particular need, but if it’s sound and safe alternative—and your brother is willing to participate—it’s worth a try.
In addition, it’s important to think about each member’s relationship with the one who needs care, as well as with each other. If your sister has historically been more distant to your mother than the others, asking her to spend one-on-one time with mom or perform intimate personal tasks is probably not a great idea. Maybe they can help with something a little less hands on, like helping with finances or grocery shopping.
One of the best ways to try to get some help from other family members is to make detailed requests for assistance. So rather than asking if someone can stay with the senior “once in a while,” you should ask that person to set aside a specific day and time for a regular visit. This will make the expectations clearer for everyone and reduce frustration and misunderstandings.
One final thought when enlisting the aid of others who are reticent to participate in caregiving: start small. The original article recommends finding something that allows for a positive result without a major commitment or effort. And remember to say thank you.