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Caregiver Disrespect: Being Taken Advantage of by Family or a Client

Dear Allegra:

I am the primary caregiver for my 91-year-old father. He suffered several strokes that left him with a variety of health problems, and now he is unable to live alone. My husband and I moved my dad in to our home after he was discharged from a rehabilitation center, and we are managing his care fairly well.

The issue I am struggling with is that my brother and sister are highly critical of everything I do or do not do for my father. It is frustrating since neither one of them helps with his care despite living fairly close by.

Most days I am able to just focus on my dad and on appreciating the time I have with him, but lately I find myself resenting my siblings more and more. I feel like I am being taken advantage of and disrespected.

Do you have any advice? I am concerned that this situation will lead to an irreparable break with my siblings.

Kindest regards,


Managing Sibling Conflict While Caregiving

Dear Stacey:

Your struggle is a tough one—and it is one we unfortunately hear quite often. Family dynamics can be one of the most challenging aspects of caring for a senior loved one.

My first piece of advice is to think carefully about what you want from your siblings. Do you want or need help with caregiving duties? Do you need a break once a week so you and your husband can enjoy a night out? Do you need emotional support from them? Maybe you just want your brother and sister to recognize all that you do and show how much they appreciate it.

Depending on how you answer those, your next step will vary:

Getting help: If you want your siblings to pitch in and help, make a list of all the things you do for your dad on a daily and weekly basis. Highlight the tasks you could use a helping hand with. Schedule a family meeting and give each of them a copy of the list. Do not ask if they can help, but instead ask which duties they will help with and on what days. Be kind but specific and firm about what you need. Your siblings will likely be surprised to see how much you do in a day, and that may be the only prompt they need to start helping.

In-home care: If either or both of your siblings say they are not able to help, ask them to pay for an in-home caregiver to complete the duties your father needs assistance with or to stay with your father one evening a week while you take a break. They might be willing to pay for a few hours of a caregiver’s time if they cannot pitch in themselves.

Eldercare mediator: Some families find it helps to talk with their pastor, rabbi, or other religious leader for help. They are often good resources for helping cope with the emotions involved in watching an older loved one’s health decline. Others find it necessary to employ the services of an eldercare mediator. These professionals are trained to help seniors and their families navigate the emotional issues involved with caregiving. The National Care Planning Council has a database on its website that you can use to locate an eldercare mediator near you.

I hope these suggestions help you find peace and support, Stacey.