Why Does It All Fall On One Person’s Shoulders?


Responsibility seems to know where to fall, just like dust. It never misses. Have you noticed that you’re the one who recognizes when something needs to be done and does it? Have you wondered why other people, especially family members, seem to be oblivious to a loved ones needs? Have you felt like it always falls on your shoulders and resent that others, who should be aware, are avoiding a situation? Do you feel like they are selfish and inconsiderate?

Twice this week I’ve been asked how one should deal with siblings who are not helping take care of parents. It’s a common theme and important that Caregivers are clear about who they expect will be there to help them and who will not. It’s complicated! On one hand it’s best to have complete control and be the decision maker, yet it’s overwhelming at times and you can resent that there is no one helping relieve you of responsibility and tasks.

We can get lost in our own mire. Think of the only child who feels overwhelmed because all responsibility falls on them to take care of, sometimes two, ailing parents. Or, the one sister in a family who has three brothers who are off doing what men do and maybe throwing a few dollars at the situation. I met one man recently who had worked full time as an insurance salesman and raised three children by himself after his wife died when the children were young. He was a Caregiver if ever I saw one. Do you think he ever felt alone and wondered why? How about people who have children with learning disabilities and need to come up with a strategy to keep the family income flowing and bring the children up with the best care and most love they can possibly give? Will the person taking most care of the child or elderly person feel like they have the most difficult job in the family? Well, yes, at least at times. And, often it’s true. But, others will not always see that. They’re in different shoes.

To those who are feeling some resentment toward others who you feel are not contributing enough, I’ll make a suggestion. If it doesn’t work, then you’ll know you took the high road and did what you could before you let go. You might write a letter. This would be a nice letter, with no accusation and no threats. You would tell your sibling (for example) that you want to share what’s going on with your mother (for example) to make sure you’re keeping them informed. Tell them how she’s doing physically and mentally. You might tell them how often you’re taking her to doctors and what those doctors are telling you. You might tell them what the expenses are with which you could use some help, if that’s an issue. You could tell them how it’s working out for you and your family. Tell them what the tasks are and nicely suggest some ways that they might participate in the Caregiving. They probably haven’t thought of ways to help because you’re often the one who takes charge and they’re used to that. If asked, they might say, “Why didn’t you tell? I didn’t know.”

This type of letter could be written to anyone who you, the Caregiver, feels might need to know that you could use some help. You would close the letter by thanking them for anything they can do to help and let them know that you understand that they will do what they can. Then send the letter and let it go. Don’t sit around waiting for a response. You’ve done what you can. It wasn’t easy to write that letter. But, it was necessary. You don’t have to wonder any more where someone stands. They’ll either step-up or they won’t. You can now move on with clear understanding of your options.

One woman told me that her brother just throws money at the situation and doesn’t come to help. I said, “Wonderful.” How many of us would love to have more money coming in? Money helps, and he probably doesn’t have the nature to be very helpful if he was in the room full time. If he’s good at making money and he sends it, that’s a lot more than many others would do. Take some of that money and pay someone to come in and relieve you. Maybe he could pay you enough that you could quit your job for a while. That would be a big help.

We’re not all cut out to take care of others and too many cooks spoil the soup. If one sister lives locally and can manage to care for an aging parent, the other siblings should be contributing to the extent that they can. If they make phone calls often to keep dad’s spirits up, if they send packages so he has a nice surprise in the mail, it goes a long way. Maybe they can contribute money to ease the burden on the Caregiver and let him/her know how much they’re appreciated. They could send a gift to the Caregiver to say thank you once in a while. That REALLY goes a long way. They should ask what is needed and how they can help. That’s what thoughtful family members would do. They should, they should, but they often don’t. You’ve got to let it go.

Others don’t often do much and don’t contribute. Or, there are no siblings or anyone else to help. What are you going to do? You could sit around and feel sorry for yourself. You could make yourself sick enough that someone, even a stranger would have to step in and take the situation in hand. You could be an angry nagging miserable person who pushes everyone away and in the course defeats their own purpose. Any of these will just make you sick. If you start resenting your Caregiving you’re only doing yourself a huge disservice. When you make yourself sick, you wind up spoiling your own life and all the opportunities that are out there if you can just manage your situation with intelligence and grace.

Try to observe yourself from a distance and see that you’re meant to be in the position you’re in. It’s one of life’s challenging times, again! Isn’t that what life is all about? One challenge after another. Someone once said, “Even winning the lottery every week would become boring after a while.” You’ve been handed an opportunity to shine. To shine as the best Caregiver ever. You can accept it with grace by getting up every morning and doing what comes next without even thinking about whether it should be any different. It isn’t, at least not right now, and you’re going to be rewarded. You’re going to be stronger and more self-confident than you’ve ever been in your life as time goes on, because that’s what comes from being one who does a job well. That’s going to benefit you strongly down the road.

So switch your focus, do what will be helpful and move past all the annoying frustrations. What makes you happy? What makes you smile? That’s the thing to focus on. What are your dreams and how could you put something into motion that would take you a little closer to them? Don’t tell me you’re too tired and it’s impossible to dream. That’s just the noise inside your head that’s talking to itself. It’s not the you who knows something about yourself that no one else knows. I know, because I’ve been there. It’s when you allow those moments of your dream idea to pop into your head, while you’re cooking or giving someone a bath, that the task at hand becomes easier. You get through it faster and you get a little closer to your dream, too. Dreams are ideas and we bring them closer to our reality by imagining them to already exist. You will feel lighter and be more giving and compassionate if you dream big and often.

The person you’re caring for is having their own challenge right now and it’s a lot bigger deal than yours. You are helping them through their journey. They are helping you through yours. You’re in this dance together. Don’t disappoint them or yourself. Love and creativity will always get you through.

Until soon, I wish you lots of love and creativity!!

Please send me your ideas and questions: patricia@caregivingcornerstone.com

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