Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Caring For Aging Parents: Stress Among Siblings

"Reports by caregivers indicated...that siblings
were overwhelmingly the most important
source of interpersonal stress."

----From a study by sociologists J. Jill Suitor
of Louisiana State University and Karl Pillemer
of Cornell University

Okay! These are the times when I'm glad I was
the "only child" my parents had!

But, I talk with caregivers at work who have
siblings. I have watched in wonder as I've
witnessed the dynamics playing out among

Day-to-day life can be stressful enough. Add
the role of caregiver to aging parents and you
may be entering a minefield if it's not dealt
with responsibly.

Relationships change and not always for the
better when aging parents need their grown
children to step up to the plate and become
their caregivers.

The #1 complaint I hear and see is that no
matter the number of siblings in a family, in
99.9% of cases, it always seems to be ONE
of the siblings who is responsible for most of
the parent's care!

So just who is the happier sibling in these cases?
No surprise that it's certainly not the one with
the added work. (Usually a woman, I may add)

Where's the rallying around? The support? Is
there any wonder the tension will increase to the
point the primary caregiver is drained of the physical
and emotional strength needed to be a caregiver
in the first place?

Added to the caregiver's grief is when unthinking
parents make excuses for the neglectful sibling in
front of the harried one.

Maybe some of you are old enough to recall the
Smother's Brother's comedy show? The favorite
line being as one brother looked at the other,
"Well, Mom always liked you best..."

Not so funny in reality, is it? So now what?

***Dealing With Sibling-related Stress***
  1. nobody wants to hear it but...Counseling!
  2. having a family meeting
  3. turning to friends for comfort and venting
  4. look at everyone's point of view
  5. deciding to function without them
  6. utilize each sibling's strengths

No matter how bad things can get, most will always say that deep down they are glad to have each other. They can't imagine what it would be like to be the "only child". They feel the "only one" is more disadvantaged.

Hmmm....I guess it comes down to what you know. As an "only child", I didn't have wished-for siblings but both Mom and I had a close, loving circle of friends. No matter what, you can't go through this experience "alone"!

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Hang in and take care of yourself,