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Are Your Parents Driving You Crazy?
How to Resolve the Most Common Dilemmas with Aging Parents
by Joseph A. Ilardo, PhD, LCSW, and Carole R. Rothman, PhD

My brother and sister won't offer to
help take care of Mom and Dad.

Solve the Problem

1. Decide on the needs your solution must satisfy.
Your solution must provide you with relief from being your parents' only helper. It must also ensure that your parents' current and future needs are satisfied in a way that is acceptable to them. Finally, it must be acceptable to your brother and sister and be practical enough to work for everyone over the long term.

2. Come up with a few possible solutions.
One possibility is for you and your brother and sister to share your parents' shopping and homemaking tasks. How you share them can be decided among the three of you. One of you can do the weekly shopping, another the cleaning, and the third the laundry. Splitting up the tasks will shorten the time any one of you spends helping. Alternately, each of you can assume sole responsibility for all tasks for a week at a time on a rotating basis, thereby ensuring that each of you has at least two weeks to yourself every month.
Another option is to have paid help perform some or all of the tasks. This might suit both your sister and brother. There is nothing inherently unacceptable about this, provided the decision is made openly and with appropriate involvement on everyone's part, especially your parents'.

3. Analyze the choices and select the best solution.

GOAL: How can I get relief from being my parents' only helper?
If your siblings are willing to provide hands-on help, then that option is best because it avoids the potential problems associated with hiring outside help.

4. Conduct a Murphy's Law analysis.
If you and your siblings agree to share hands-on care, trouble can arise if either of them fails to hold up his or her part of the bargain. With this in mind, plan for emergencies by arranging a trade-off system—keep track of who does what for whom. However, taking on the responsibility of being the record keeper or assigner of tasks can put you back to square one. To avoid this, share the schedule of allocated responsibilities with your parents. To the extent possible, encourage them to speak directly to whichever sibling is responsible for a task that has gone undone. Intervene only if absolutely necessary.
What if your siblings refuse to be involved in any way in your parents' care? It is unusual for family members to refuse to do anything at all, especially when provided with options. However, when there is a family history of serious mental illness or strong discord, it happens. (We know of one case in which a family member told a sibling on learning that their mother was seriously ill, "Take Mom to your house and let me know when she dies.") If you reach a total impasse and are unsuccessful using the strategies discussed in chapter 3, it will be up to you to arrange for outside help.
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