Caring for aging parents can get more complicated when siblings need to work together.
These emotionally-charged situations tend to bring out conflicts and old family issues.
We found a helpful article from Family Caregiver Alliance that helps resolve common issues that come up when caregiving with siblings.
Here, we share insights about 3 key points from the article:
- Understanding what causes sibling tension
- Rebalancing caregiving responsibilities when one person has been doing all the work
- Handling disagreements about how much help your parents need
3 key tips for caregiving with siblings
1. Why sibling tensions can erupt as parents need care
Uncertainty can cause conflict and there’s no how-to manual to guide you through caring for your parents as a team.
It’s also an emotional time as you watch your parents decline. Everyone has different ways of coping with their parents’ aging – anger, fear, sadness, denial.
On top of all that, old feelings and arguments are being stirred up.
Childhood competition may start again over the need for love, approval, or to be seen as important or competent.
These struggles are likely to show up in arguments over who does or doesn’t do something, how much each person does, and who’s in charge.
2. As a family, carefully consider – or reconsider – the caregiving responsibilities
Families often don’t think about or discuss in advance who will be the primary caregiver and how other family members will help.
A common situation is for the sibling who lives near the parents to start helping with small things.
Then, a year later, they realize they’re now spending 50+ hours a week caregiving and feeling angry that the other siblings aren’t doing their share.
It’s natural for families to fall into that trap or to make common assumptions like:
- The son will handle finances and the daughter will take care of emotional or physical needs.
- One sibling should be Mom’s caregiver because they don’t have a job or they need a place to stay.
- The sibling who doesn’t have children should take care of everything.
The problem is that these assumptions don’t distribute the work fairly or take individual capabilities into account.
It’s important for families to hold a meeting to discuss and agree upon the tasks each person will be expected to do, if anyone will be paid for what they do, and how those payments will work.
If the caregiving responsibilities are already out-of-balance, decide together on how to ease the burden for the primary caregiver.
And if there’s too much conflict between siblings, consider getting a neutral, unbiased person to facilitate the meeting.
3. Siblings may have different ideas about what parents need
Siblings deal with their parents’ decline in different ways.
Some need the parent to always act like the parent, some become overprotective and hope they can prevent anything bad from happening, and some just can’t accept the fact that their parents need help.
How to handle these differences:
- If possible, give siblings time to understand what’s happening and slowly come to an agreement on how much care is really needed.
- Keep all siblings up to date about your parent’s condition so everyone has the facts. That means sharing reports and info from doctors, geriatric care managers, or social workers.
- Remember that parents may tell each child different things about their health. Work together and pool your info so you all have a more complete picture.
By DailyCaring Editorial Team