“Are you going to do something for my mom?”

Of course you want to help your parents if they become needy. In practice, however, the distribution of informal care between siblings is sometimes difficult. How do you get there in a good way?

Elizabeth SmithMirai sheep

Every Sunday afternoon, a man, let’s call him Wim, visits his eighty-year-old mother. Wim is in his late fifties and has two older brothers and a younger sister. Yet every Sunday – after a 45-minute drive – he sits alone with his mother at a hot lunch. Then he does some chores and administration. do not mind. Since his mother became a widow five years ago, he sees it as his duty as a son. But recently he wanted to go on vacation with his new partner for a week. He sent an email to his brothers and sister asking him to take this week off – and maybe more if possible? – to solve. Wim: “Suddenly everything is on edge. My sister sent an email saying she didn’t have time and she did. My only brother thought he helped a lot in the past and never got to know him. My other brother didn’t reply at all. Ridiculous, though It didn’t really surprise me. In our family I was always the most responsible towards my parents, who weren’t easy teachers by the way. But I didn’t expect to be alone at this point.”

old patterns

The fact that you have the same parents does not necessarily mean that you are very fond of each other and that you have the same relationship with those parents, says Professor Emeritus of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Frits Boer. And he immediately adds kindly that there is nothing wrong with that in principle. “People are different from each other anyway. But these differences can become more sensitive if informal care is needed in the family. In addition, you know each other very well and everyone will respond to the situation and each other will respond from old mechanisms. For example For example, one person wants to arrange everything for everyone right away, and the other gets angry quickly or responds with difficulty. The joke is that brother and sister patterns can be recognized from a distance, but it’s still hard to get out of that loop together.” It can cause abdominal pain. “Who feels in charge and takes the lead? Who pays back? Who gets asked less anyway? All these old patterns emerge when informal care presents itself.”


Margolin (56) also discovered this. When her mother was on her deathbed in 2012, she and her two older brothers and two older sisters entrusted her father’s care. Unfortunately, he turned out to be more forgetful and in need of help than they had thought, so intervention had to be made immediately after the death of the mother. Marjoline: “Everyone looked at me right away, also because my dad thought it made sense. Now I’m really solving a problem, so during that first stint I arranged home help and visited a geriatrician with my dad who diagnosed Alzheimer’s. As his condition worsened, we divided up Children care between us to daily schedules. But I arranged most of them and it was difficult for me. Mainly because of guilt, because I also have my own beauty salon, husband and son. Slowly I became overburdened. If I indicated in the family app that I could not do it, it would be That soon: I can’t either. When I asked my brothers to at least become mentors and administrators with me to relieve the pressure, three of them refused. That was really disappointing. They probably couldn’t handle it emotionally, that’s possible. But this situation didn’t suit anyone. Including me. Caring for your parents is linked to loyalty, especially if you both made a promise to them. When you’re with more, you can stand strong together. Turns out that’s not the case in our case.”

Annoying little sister

Informal care can change the nature of normal family relationships. Grabbing a cup of coffee comes all of a sudden: Checking everything in the fridge for shelf life, collecting the laundry, or asking for care instructions. The original hierarchy between brother(s) and sister(s) can also come under pressure. Marjolene: “I’m the youngest. When I asked the others something, they thought: Should you hear that little sister? He found me annoying because I knocked over calendars and appointments. Our normal communication became less pleasant because of it. I know now that brother-sister problems are taboo among caregivers Informal. You can get to know each other better in this situation. It can be done well, but it can be painful sometimes.”
Recognizable, says Professor Emeritus Fritz Bauer. He says we should not be so hard on each other. These are important and unique links. Experiences with siblings are more solid than those with colleagues or friends. This creates connection and engagement, but there is also a downside to it. Brothers and sisters are givers, but children are different, even as adults. One has more money than the other, not everyone is equally dependent on family ties and what is “loyal” to one person does not necessarily have to be to another.

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  1. Tell the brother(s) and/or sister(s) about the actual condition of your parent(s) and be clear. “I feel like things are not going well” is not enough.
  2. Let them know that their efforts are both needed and needed, explain what that means in practical terms, and express appreciation for the help provided.
  3. Divide tasks together according to individual qualities, freedom and living conditions. Help with finances, maintaining contacts with home caregivers and other indirect caregiver tasks can also be done by someone who lives far away.
  4. Set limits on what you do and don’t do, both for the care system and for the parent being cared for. Medical procedures such as placing an IV or changing catheters go further than cooking or washing, so discuss this with your doctor and check your own risk beforehand.
  5. Accept your brother (brother) and / or sister (s) as they are, respect their opinion and experience (childhood) and find compromises. The common goal now is to take care of your parents.
  6. If communication is not going well, a dementia case manager (also known as a dementia nurse, counsellor, or dementia counsellor), a social worker, or a family friend can help steer care in the right direction.
  7. If necessary, contact a volunteer from a social welfare organization or other body if you are short on hands. Brothers, sisters and grandchildren can also (want to) be cooperative, involving them if necessary.
  8. Forgive the sibling who (still) refuses to help and look for alternatives.
  9. If you assume everyone is doing their best, then so are you. So take time out and don’t be “on” 24/7, you’re committing theft on yourself.
  10. Do something completely different together now and then. Take a walk on the beach, for example, and then don’t care about talking. This gives you some fresh air and a great opportunity to get to know each other better (again).
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equal positions

To avoid potential tensions or conflicts, parents can “pre-sort” their end when they are still alive, for example by giving away money or belongings in advance. But unintentional mistakes can also be made. Then there are the special tasks that parents give their children later in life. Like arranging financial management by the eldest son who is good at numbers. Or sometimes he unconsciously puts a heavy burden on that caring daughter who lives nearby and says she doesn’t mind. Boyer: “Parents are afraid to treat children differently, but they often do it anyway. This doesn’t have to be a big problem. In a good upbringing, children learn that they cannot all take center stage at the same time. This is also the case at a later age.” But you should still feel equal. A good explanation can make a big difference. For example, the sibling who is taking over the parental affairs can explain to the rest of the family why this is happening and indicate that they are always ready to answer questions about it. If everyone stays the same equal and are open to communication, then the risk of a family member feeling deprived or even completely closed off will be reduced.

New cornerstone

For Margaret (60), it was clear early on that she would one day provide informal care. Her younger brother suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 30. Later, when her father fell very ill and her mother fell down the stairs, she knew: From now on, it will be up to me. “I came from a loving family, being there for each other was a given. But anxiety quickly grew over my head. I was cooking for my dad, and after my dad died I continued to cook for my mom, gardening, managing and shopping. Before I knew it, I had two families. Of course I didn’t.” It wasn’t natural. My brother couldn’t help me like I did, but I never wanted to trade with him. Partly because of this, I took care of myself very seriously and kept my problems to myself. So somewhere I went through a grieving process while I was fighting for the right help. It was getting Nursing local and getting the right pointers in order takes a lot of work.You may not think about it, but informal care is eventually expected of everyone. The government regards informal caregivers as the new cornerstone of society. New health care laws are on the way, there are fewer and fewer of health care workers and population aging is also increasing.”

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help and comfort

This is precisely why it is important for siblings to talk to each other and their parent(s) about impending informal care in a timely manner. Marjolene thinks so, too, who only after her father’s death discovers how she had become so tired of everything. “Suddenly I didn’t have to answer every phone call anymore and there was time for the fun stuff again. It also meant I could look more moderately at the situation about my parent’s caregiving. We weren’t all the same, I accepted that. Although I wish I had We were able to distribute care more evenly.”
If it works out, it is also possible that the wealth of a brother-sister bond during informal care could be significant. You can help each other, comfort them, and learn to accept the inevitable end of your parents together. Margaret would have loved that, too. “Sometimes I was thinking: Why did I hold on to two kids? I really missed out on an extra brother or sister. I don’t mean in a bad way for my brother, he just did the best he could. But I felt alone, and that made everything that much more difficult.”

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know more?

♦ Mantelzorgelijk.nl It is an expert, independent online expert center for informal and sheltered community-based caregivers.
♦ Mantelzorg.nl It is a national association that advocates for everyone who cares for a loved one.
Brusjes.nl Does everyone have a brother or sister who needs medical care because of a chronic illness, disability, psychological problem, or addiction?

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