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I Can't Keep Caregiving Alone



"I’ve been the primary caregiver of my 95-year-old mother for about eight years. It involves shopping, cleaning, errands, laundry, and lately, helping with bathing. My two siblings live in other states and only come to town to visit. They don’t pick up any of the tasks associated with caring for Mom.

I am so tired. I often wonder how long this will go on and if I’ll make it. Mom lives in an apartment, so luckily, there’s no yardwork or other maintenance. But the constant caregiving is tiring. I wish my siblings would help a little bit, but they seem to think they have a “get out of jail free card” because they live a bit of a distance.

I wonder what others do in a situation like this?"



Eight years is a long time to manage two households without help. Caregivers need a break from time to time and your siblings need to be part of the solution.

Ideally, you simply tell your two siblings that you’re at your limit and need some respite. Sometimes we just hint at our frustration, and it’s too easy to choose to ignore. They either ignore your comments or don’t take you seriously. They may sense your exhaustion but don’t know how they can help. Please be concrete with your requests for assistance.

Start by saying these words: “Mom’s care is getting to be too much for me alone.” Follow with what you’d like them to do. Based on what you mentioned, I’d ask one sibling to handle the ordering and delivering of groceries, since that can be done from anywhere. Another sibling can be assigned to arrange for a weekly or twice-a-week bath service. Let them find a caregiver and arrange payment.

You could also ask siblings to cover one week a year each while you take a break or travel. They can come into town and assist.

The hardest thing when you’ve been doing something for a long time is handing it over to someone else. Indeed, they will have a different slant on how to do it. Mom may complain a bit. Never ever take it back though, or you will be right where you started -- tired and burned out.

It's going to get harder from here so do get some support now, starting with your siblings. It’s possible to go it alone, but it can be exhausting and may not be necessary. Share the tasks now so that you and your siblings get used to shared caregiving. It can be accomplished. Those at a distance may just need to be directed a bit more.

I wish you success as you navigate shared care. It will not be perfect, but it can be better.


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