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DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two siblings who live far away from the town we grew up in. I am the main caregiver for my ailing father. I live nearby, and naturally I assume the primary leadership role in making sure he’s cared for and goes to his doctors’ visits, sees me and my kids regularly, everything. I’m fine with that. I knew it would be this way when I was the only one who stayed in town after we all grew up. My issue is that my siblings act like they are doing so much to help my dad. Whenever we are together or even talking to others, I hear them say how hard caregiving is for my dad and what sacrifices they are making. Really? I don’t see them doing much of anything for him. One of them calls daily. The other one calls infrequently. I’m not mad at them about the amount they contribute, but it made me angry to hear them boast like they are doing a lot. There’s plenty more they could do — even from a distance — but they don’t. Should I address this? — Caretaking
DEAR CARETAKING: Take a deep breath. You are in the thick of your father’s situation, so it’s natural that you would be sensitive on this topic. Your siblings probably do feel the emotional strain of your father’s decline and the chasm that is created by the distance. They also may not know what else they can do to support him — or you. This is your opportunity to tell them.
Rather than chastising them for exaggerating how much they are doing, invite them to do more. As the primary caregiver, call a meeting and tell them that it is time for them to be more actively involved. Tell them specific tasks they can fulfill, and get them to agree to pitch in.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I had a pretty nice summer — except when it came to my husband. We entertained a lot, and I found myself doing the lion’s share of the work while he enjoyed playing. When I would ask him to help by doing the dishes or taking out the trash, he would balk and tell me he would do it when he felt like it. There was no semblance of teamwork in my house this summer. That made what could have been a fun time feel more like a burden on me. When I brought it up to my husband, he accused me of complaining. How can I get him to be more of a partner in our shared life? — Team Up
DEAR TEAM UP: Sit down with your husband and tell him you want to talk about something important. Tell him you believe there is a great opportunity before the two of you to work more closely together. Without accusing him of being a slacker, point out how much easier it might have been this summer had he worked with you in handling the household chores. Ask him to consider playing a more active role in the day-to-day activities that keep your home functioning. Tell him it makes you sad when he doesn’t support you. If that doesn’t work, boycott the next duty. Just don’t do whatever is his responsibility. When he asks why, tell him you are taking a page out of his book. See how he reacts to that.