A lot of my clients are caregivers. They are adult children of parents whose health is failing, whose house may be falling apart, whose mind is fading and whose world is dwindling. They are the sibling of a person who has and will be dependent upon someone due to intellectual disabilities or severe mental health issues. They are also individuals in their own right, with lives of their own – families, jobs, friends, hobbies and a household of their own to run. They are trying to meet the emotional and physical needs of their parent or sibling all the while trying to manage their own life.
And then there are the caregivers other siblings. The ones who are far too busy to stop by to visit their parents, but have no problem calling and leaving messages for the caregiver about how they are doing something wrong. The ones who somehow couldn’t make it to their parents house to help clean it out before it was sold but then wail about how their treasured childhood toy got tossed in the dumpster. The ones who didn’t help sort through the mess of bills and financial papers to make sure there was enough money to pay for the parents care, but are the first in line with their hand out when their parent dies and are suddenly interested in the financial decisions that were made.
Whether these people are lazy or bad or misguided or just unable to handle their feelings of grief over their parents situation doesn’t really matter to me. What matters is when these people make life difficult for my clients. When they pile on additional stressors and make themselves one more phone call to be returned, one more person to say “you’re doing it wrong” (as if my clients didn’t already think that about themselves half the time.)
If you are a caregiver dealing with this situation, it can be helpful to remember that not everything requires a response and that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. You get to choose how and if you respond to a voicemail or a text from someone who is adding to your burden.
And what if you recognize yourself as the sibling in this situation? Stop. Stop bothering the person who is doing all the work. Start doing something helpful like asking how you can assist, or refraining from offering unsolicited advice, or getting yourself into therapy to figure out why you are doing what you are doing.
Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do it be quiet and get out of the way.