Coping with Caregiver Sibling Resentment while Caring for Elderly Parents
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Coping With Caregiver Sibling Resentment While Caring for Elderly Parents

Difficulties faced when caring for elderly parents

Many adult children wish to take care of elderly parents out of family loyalty and devotion to their senior loved ones. Older children often hope to fulfill their parents’ wishes of being cared for by their children or close relatives. Regardless of the reasons, providing care can be personally rewarding but also emotionally taxing and physically demanding, particularly if an elderly parent’s health condition worsens and if caregiving responsibilities fall upon one primary caregiver. 

Being a primary caregiver entails numerous responsibilities and sacrifices. What may start as weekly visitations, driving a parent to doctor’s appointments, or making sure bills are paid can progress to providing full-time, hands-on care with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, toileting, and assisting with ambulation and feeding. Should elderly parents become unable to complete ADLs independently because of declining health, recent surgery, or a neurodegenerative illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), caregiving tasks can become even more challenging for primary caregivers to tackle alone.  

Increased difficulty in providing care can give way to caregiving mistakes and impact the safety of older loved ones. As caregiving demands increase, caregiver stress, resentment, and burnout can also occur.

Reasons for resentment

Growing demands on a sole primary caregiver can give rise to caregiver stress, burnout, and feelings of resentment. Resentment can fester and affect the emotional health of family caregivers, fray family relationships, and affect the well-being of the person receiving care.

Lexico (Oxford) defines resentment as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.”

Some causes for feelings of caregiver resentment are the following:

·   Sibling caregivers may feel resentful when they believe they are being treated unfairly or are being taken advantage of, especially when other siblings may not have offered to help care for an elderly parent.

·   Sibling caregivers may feel resentful because they realize their elderly parent’s health will not improve, especially for parents with progressive and terminal illnesses.

·   Primary caregivers may resent that their caregiving responsibilities have increased and, consequently, limited their ability to work or to care for their own family.

Reasons family members might not help care for family elders

·   Adult siblings have not been asked to care for their parents because they have become estranged and may no longer live in the area. 

·   Another sibling or relative living in the parent’s hometown has become the primary caregiver, so other siblings may feel unneeded.

·   Adult children may have made early commitments to assist and provide care for their parents but later moved away and now feel they cannot help because of the distance.

·   Past differences, sibling rivalries, and lingering family conflicts may have caused a schism among family members, making it difficult for them to contact each other or to ask for assistance in caring for an elderly parent.

Solutions to help reduce feelings of resentment

Ask for help!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask for assistance from siblings, family members, or home care providers. Asking for and receiving extra support from reliable family members or assistance from trained and experienced caregivers will reduce stress, frustration, feelings of resentment, and caregiver burnout. Having additional caregivers who can step in and assist with in-home senior care enables family caregivers to take much-needed daily breaks from caregiving duties.

Should a primary caregiver continue to be stressed out and resentful, it may be necessary to consult with a medical care provider and a licensed mental health professional to maintain the safety and well-being of both the primary caregiver and senior loved one.

Make early contingency plans for caregiver assistance

As adult children or older spouses begin to provide home care assistance for their loved ones, it is crucial to make early contingency plans to have a caregiver support group in place should primary caregivers need to step aside to deal with personal health-care concerns, tend to family or employment issues, or take a well-deserved break from caregiving duties. Support group members may include other adult siblings, relatives, or even an in-home senior care provider who can step in and assist senior loved ones with daily companion care, personal care, or respite care services.

Realize that everyone’s ability to help is not the same

Not all adult children will be able to give elderly parents the same type of care. Nor will they bring the same set of skills to a family’s caregiving journey or be able to provide the same economic assistance as others. Taking the time to communicate with family members and adult siblings to learn about each person’s abilities and asking how they might be able to assist in caring for a loved one are essential for those with a primary role in providing direct care. Knowing this information enables care partners, elderly caregiver spouses, and caregiver siblings to support aging loved ones more effectively. Realizing that everyone has different abilities and skills to contribute can help reduce misunderstandings and resentment.

Find ways to help

Adult siblings living in the same hometown as their elderly parents may take on the role of primary caregiver. In the early stages, the role might include assisting with transportation, showering, getting dressed, or preparing daily meals. Another adult sibling might have the ability to install safety bars in the bathroom, clear yard debris, make necessary safety changes around the home, or take the time to hire qualified contractors to do these types of jobs. A sibling living out of state might be able to schedule biweekly video conference calls with older parents and even help organize and schedule family meetings using Zoom or other internet-conferencing applications. 

Should an elderly parent’s health change, requiring increased home care and assistance with ADLs, adult siblings can reassess ways they can continue to help and research options that fit their parent’s needs and wishes.

Organize family meetings and keep lines of communication open

Maintaining regular communication among adult children and other close relatives keeps everyone informed about an elder parent’s needs, health condition, and care. Keeping family contact information updated and taking the first step to visit, call, or email family members shows a primary caregiver’s wish to reach out and give validity to family ties. Even if some sibling or family rivalries cannot be resolved, taking the initiative to contact relatives shows that you care enough to call them. It may not always work out, but no one can say that you never tried to reach out to them.

Primary caregivers can help organize in-person family meetings for those who may live in the parent’s hometown or in neighboring areas. If distance and driving pose an issue, scheduling periodic meetings with family members using internet-conferencing applications can be a practical way to meet and share family information and updates.   

Even though not everyone will be able to offer the same type of care or level of assistance, family members should feel welcome at these planned family discussions.

Increasing communication and having periodic meetings enables family members to maintain productive family connections. Staying informed and showing empathy, regardless of how other family members or adult siblings may be able to assist senior loved ones can pave the way for improved sibling relationships and family ties.

Join family caregiver support groups

Joining a caregiver support group can give family caregivers the opportunity to share experiences and discuss helpful caregiving strategies with other family caregivers. To learn about specific support groups that relate to a senior’s health condition, consult with their health-care provider. If you are caring for a parent with AD or another form of progressive dementia, we invite you to visit the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center’s support group page at https://adrccares.org/services/caregiver-support-groups/.

If you are providing care for a parent diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, contact the Parkinson’s Foundation or ask your parent’s physician about local support groups, resources, and programs geared toward both the family caregiver and the patient.

Other support groups to consider in the Greater Orlando area include Orlando Health’s Cancer Support Groups. To learn more, please visit https://www.orlandohealth.com/content-hub/cancer-support-group.

Divide responsibilities among adult children and relatives

Care activities can be divided among older adult children, a care partner or spouse, or other relatives. Adult children and family members can assist an elderly parent who wishes to remain at home by ensuring that their parent’s quality of life, senior care needs, and home safety requirements are addressed. Adult siblings, a care partner or spouse, and close relatives can take on some of the following responsibilities:

·   Take turns helping with laundry, tidying up the house, washing bed and bath linens, and accompanying parents to doctor’s appointments. 

·   Contact licensed professionals to ensure the air-conditioning unit, water heater, smoke, and fire alarms are periodically checked and in working condition. 

·   Take steps to reduce the risk of falls and injury by clearing clutter, removing slippery rugs, and installing safety bars in the bathroom.

·   Assist in taking care of bill payments, communicating with agency care providers, organizing in-person family gatherings, and setting up family meetings using available internet-conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, especially for those unable to travel.

·   Provide transportation to doctor’s appointment, senior centers, and to group exercise activities at the local gym.

·   Assist with ADLs when an elderly parent is unable to complete these activities without assistance. ADLs include feeding, personal hygiene, toileting, continence, dressing, and ambulation.

Schedule self-care activities

Making time for self-care activities can enrich a sibling caregiver’s physical and emotional well-being, reduce stress and feelings of resentment, and help prevent caregiver burnout.

Daily or weekly self-care activities can include routine aerobic exercise, joining group exercise classes, taking part in creative art activities, and learning relaxation techniques via meditation or yoga classes.

·   Going on brisk walks or scheduling 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week can benefit cardiovascular health and help reduce stress. A study of family caregivers by researchers at the University of British Columbia showed that participating in aerobic exercises for 40 minutes at least three times a week improved the participants’ cardiorespiratory fitness, reduced cellular aging, and even reduced perceived chronic stress. The findings were published in Psychoneuroendocrinology and summarized by the research news website ScienceDaily.

·   Participating in group exercise classes at a nearby YMCA can increase physical activity while also providing opportunities for social interaction. Staying socially engaged can improve emotional well-being and reduce isolation for family caregivers.

·   Taking art or craft classes can redirect caregivers’ focus away from feeling stressed and resentful and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. If stress becomes chronic and is not carefully addressed, it can affect an individual’s ability to sleep and have long-term effects on cardiovascular and brain health.

Conclusion 

Scheduling self-care activities, joining caregiver support groups, having family meetings, and asking and receiving extra support from others can lower caregiver stress and feelings of resentment for family caregivers. Learning about elderly parents' health conditions and being mindful of the difficulty in providing full-time care can help guide adult children or care partners into seeking assistance from other siblings, relatives, and trained senior care professionals.

Should you or your family need assistance in providing care for an elderly parent and want to learn about the different home care options available, contact Senior Helpers Orlando. Since 2008, our Senior Helpers Orlando care team has provided quality in-home care services for seniors living in the Greater Orlando area. Our trained and experienced caregivers are ready to provide the quality senior care your loved ones need and deserve. Senior Helpers Orlando provides Alzheimer's and dementia care, respite care, and personal care services for older adults residing in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties. 

Senior Helpers is a Better Business Bureau® (BBB) accredited business and has a home care accreditation by The Joint Commission, the oldest health care accreditation organization in the nation. 

For more information about Senior Helpers Orlando and the in-home care services we provide, call (407) 628-4357.

Senior Helpers Orlando Team

Resources and references

Resentment (Definition): Lexico/Oxford; retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://www.lexico.com/definition/resentment.

Caregiver Support Groups; Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center; retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://adrccares.org/services/caregiver-support-groups/.

Resources & Support; Parkinson’s Foundation; retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.parkinson.org/Living-with-Parkinsons/Resources-and-Support.

Cancer Support Groups; Orlando Health; retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.orlandohealth.com/content-hub/cancer-support-group.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs); StatPearls Publishing; National Library of Medicine; updated Jan. 2022; retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470404/.

Aerobic exercise lengthens telomeres and reduces stress in family caregivers: A randomized controlled trial - Curt Richter Award Paper 2018; published online in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology; Elsevier, Science Direct; originally published online August 2, 2018; “Version of Record” October 26, 2018; retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030645301830773X .

Exercise reduces stress, improves cellular health in family caregivers; University of British Columbia (Source); Science News, Science Daily; published online October 3, 2018; retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003090339.htm.

Group Exercise; YMCA of Central Florida; retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://ymcacf.org/programs/groupexercise/.

Better Business Bureau® (BBB): https://www.bbb.org/

The Joint Commission: https://www.jointcommission.org/