A day in the life of a caregiver can include feeding your family breakfast, getting the kids ready for school or daycare, going to work and then stopping by to see mom or dad before you head back home to your children.
What do you do though, when your siblings or other family members come to you and ask, “So, how are mom and dad doing?” “Are they well?” “What happened at their doctor’s appointment last week?” It may seem innocent enough, but these questions can become frustrating and sap your strength. Why? Because you are being put into the role of middleman and your siblings are stepping back by not taking responsibility and that adds an additional burden onto your shoulder.
If you take on the role of mom and dad’s “agent” this means you are taking on more work on the caregiver role and your siblings are relying on you to supply the answers they need and this can drain your energy. You can certainly update family members if there is a change in the health or well-being of an aging loved one, but if you find yourself in the role of being the only one who reaches out and stops by to check on your parents, you are unwittingly putting yourself in the spokesperson, aka agent, role.
For some caregivers, they also find themselves having to explain to mom and dad that yes, the siblings are reaching out to you to see how they are, but no, you don’t know why they aren’t coming to visit or picking up the telephone. This is not a good situation for you to be in and resentment can build. You simply cannot speak for the other members of your family as to why they aren’t making an appearance and it does put you in a difficult position.
What can you do? You need to take a step back, get as many of the family members into the same room as possible and lay down some ground rules. Even if you are the designated legal representative for your aging parents, that doesn’t remove your siblings from taking an interest in their health. You need to ask for help and also let the other family members know that you cannot take on the role of middleman. Urge them to get involved and pick up the phone or stop by and visit. If mom or dad asks why they haven’t heard from your brother you need to say, “I honestly don’t know. You should call him.”
Regardless of your family dynamic, if you’ve taken on the role of caregiver you cannot take on the role of relationship manager for everyone. When you find yourself in the middle, take a deep breath, take a step back and remind your siblings of their responsibility to reach out on their own.