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Family caregiver needs recognition from siblings

Carol Bursack of Minding Our Elders

Dear Carol: I have been taking care of my aging parents' needs for several years. Since I live near them, and caregiving suits my personality, I'm happy to do it. My parent care has gone from just running a few errands and accompanying them to the doctor to going to their home daily and doing their laundry, most of their cooking, and setting up medications.

I realize that my siblings, because they live out of town, can't do much for our parents. All that I ask for is a pat on the back now and then for what I do, but it's like they live in another world. They are glad that our parents are taken care of, but they offer no support or even a thank you. I'm not asking for help, but I'm becoming resentful, which I don't like. Am I selfish to want some recognition? Susie

Dear Susie: I personally want to thank you for all that you do for your parents because I know how much work it is. Additionally, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, in 2013, informal (mostly family) caregivers provided $470 billion worth of care that would have primarily fallen to Medicaid if family members had not stepped in. The numbers have grown significantly since that survey. Therefore, you are a hero, Susie, not only to your parents but to taxpayers. They, too, should be thanking you.

I'm sorry that your family seems unappreciative and I assure you that you aren't selfish to want some recognition. This is a common issue because non-caregiving siblings rarely understand the caregiver's sacrifices, lack of time for themselves and their unrelenting stress. As with most of life, if people haven't experienced something they can't truly understand it.

To be fair to your siblings, your lack of complaint may be making this look too easy. When the time comes that your parents need to hire help or move to a care facility, they could be stunned that things have gotten this bad.

For that reason, it's likely time for you to be more open with your siblings about your own stress over the growing needs of your parents. You aren't a whiner or a selfish person if you regularly provide your siblings with enough information to keep them up to date. That includes the fact that the workload for you is growing and you will need some help before long.

If this communication helps them become personally involved, they may be startled into thanking you for your hard work. If they brush off your words, do yourself a favor and accept that they aren't going to become involved or even show appreciation. Since resentment often comes from unfulfilled expectations, try to readjust your expectations. Then move forward with hiring extra care for your parents when needed. You have a right to do that since your siblings will have been fully informed.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carolbursack@msn.com.

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