A Cut Above

Family Affair

Caring for elderly parents is daunting enough without adding business ownership to the mix. But if you're the sibling who is closest to your parents-either emotionally or geographically-you may end up doing most of the work. How can you get your siblings to pull their weight?

Call an "I need help" meeting. Suggest three possible dates about a month away, so no one will have an excuse to duck out of it.

Outline key points you want to discuss. Bring the list to the meeting; it shows you've thought it through.

Be specific when describing problems. Use statistics to make points ("Mom called me six times in one day to ask how much money she had in the bank").

Get feedback. If your sibs aren't saying anything, ask them what they're thinking. Expect everything from sympathy to denial to defensiveness.

Add comic relief. Relay an anecdote that's funny but will also help others understand what you're up against.

When dividing up duties, ask everyone to consider several things: 1) their skills and preferences, 2) their time availability, and 3) their geographic distance. Siblings living far away still can call their parents regularly, provide money for caretaking or arrange for parents to come visit them.

At the end of the meeting, gain closure. Recap what's been decided, and agree to stay in touch at regular intervals.

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This article was originally published in the August 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Cut Above.

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