Everything went very smoothly for the first five years. However, their health has declined a lot and they now reside in the assisted living section of the facility, where they require considerable additional help and services. There isn’t a day when there isn’t a “crisis du jour.’’
My siblings visit a few times a year, but they seem to come for “vacation” and when they leave I am more frazzled than before they came. It would be so much better if they came to help me and to give me a break. I don’t seem to be able to get the message across. What can I do to get them to pitch in and give me some relief? — JoAnn G., Boca Raton, FL
I have a hunch that because of your competence and generosity toward your parents, you might not have communicated to your sisters just how challenging the situation has become for your parents, now in their 90s, and for you, their primary caregiver.
Your sisters may also believe, mistakenly, that because your parents are residing in an assisted living facility that most, if not all, of their physical needs are being met. Melissa A. Friedman, PhD, a psychologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, told me that she has observed this same dynamic in many other families and offered this advice:
If they’re unable to pitch in on a regular basis, their visits should be able to relieve you of some responsibilities and give you a much needed break. Here is some further advice from Friedman on how to better communicate with your sisters:
There’s a good chance that your sisters will appreciate your taking the lead in involving them in your parents’ care, and they might even surprise you by making more frequent and longer visits in order to make a real difference to your parents and to you.