December 27, 2022

Working with Siblings to Care for Aging Parents


Having support from your siblings can be very helpful when you are caring for a chronically ill or disabled parent. However, working with siblings in a parent care situation can also be complicated – and often very stressful. 

Consider the following scenario. You are an adult child of a chronically ill, disabled, or aging parent. Your siblings agree that your mother or father can no longer care for herself or himself, but that’s where the conflicts and arguments start. Everyone has his or her own opinion about who will care for the parent and what that care will look like. 

Siblings may have diverging opinions about their parent’s care. One sibling may feel that the parent needs to go into an assisted living situation, while another will want to hire home healthcare workers, and you may prefer to keep mom or dad in their own home with siblings sharing the caregiving. Old childhood rivalries may bubble up, seemingly out of nowhere, and it becomes very hard to agree on a caregiving strategy. PersonalRX’s  PRX Check questionnaire can help by allowing each family member to easily record their observations about your loved one’s condition so that the family can discuss, agree, and follow up with sensible solutions and interventions.

Very often, problems arise when one adult child assumes a disproportionate share of the caregiving duties. This child may live closest to the parent while siblings may be far away, or he or she may be more readily available. This main caregiver can wind up resenting siblings, and the siblings may feel left out and inconsequential.  

By following the tips noted below, it may help you more successfully work with your brothers and sisters to care for your aging, disabled or ill parent.

  • Make sure all family members are kept in the loop about a parent’s progress and condition. Send out emails or texts for the quick updates. If your siblings are nearby, get together for more serious conversations, and have discussions via Zoom if your siblings live far away.
  • Enable your brothers and sisters to participate in your parent’s care to the best of their abilities. Your attorney sister who is also raising children may have less time to help than a brother working a strict nine-to-five job, for instance. Nearby siblings can run errands, provide in-person, hands-on care when needed and drive your parent to doctors’ appointments. Brothers and sisters who live in other states might be able to contribute by helping with finances. 
  • Ask for help. If you’re handling a large portion of the daily caretaking, you might become overwhelmed. Don’t expect your brothers and sisters to come to your rescue. Take the initiative and directly ask for help. 
  • Find ways to make caregiving easier for yourself and your siblings. Whether you’re the main caregiver or your sibling has that responsibility, there are many ways to lighten the load. If food shopping has become difficult for you to fit in to your schedule, take advantage of grocery delivery services. Arranging for your parent’s medications to arrive on their doorstep in convenient dose packs from PersonalRX can make medication dispensing quick, easy and safe.
  • Be sure to let your siblings know how grateful you are for their help, and how much you appreciate their participation in caring for your parent. Even though you may be doing the lion’s share of the caregiving, they are likely doing the best they can. 
  • Meet with a family therapist to hash out any family issues that may get in the way of cooperating with siblings. A social worker or counselor may be able to help your family members work out a care plan for parents that ensures everyone’s voice is heard and needs are met.

Every family has their issues, but making health decisions for aging parents is a strain no matter how well you all get along. Hopefully these tips can help all involved start productive conversations that lead to good health outcomes for their parents.

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