Share the Care: 7 Tips for Sibling Family Caregivers

An expert on family ties and aging offers suggestions to help siblings cooperate in caring for parents.

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- Posted on May 26, 2020

Adult siblings discuss a loved one's situation

Even when siblings are close, as Rick Hamlin and his brother and sisters are, they might disagree on what’s best for Mom and Dad. Yet caring for aging parents can also bring families together. Home Instead Senior Care worked with Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., an expert on family ties and aging at Western University, to develop tips to help siblings better share the care of their parents:

Talk and listen. Sit down with your siblings—in person, by phone or on video chat—ideally before a caregiving crisis arises. Discuss your parents’ needs, everyone’s concerns and what each person can contribute in terms of time and money. Have these family meetings regularly.

Research options. Learn what services your parents’ community offers. (Eldercare.acl.gov is a good resource.) Ask relatives, friends and church or synagogue members what helped them care for seniors. Considering in-home care? Contact Home Instead Senior Care at (866) 996-1085 or homeinstead.com/ guideposts for a free consultation.

Be flexible. Your parents’ needs will change over time. So will your and your siblings’ lives. Aim for a division of labor that takes into account each family member’s abilities and interests, as well as their availability.

Let go of baggage. Set aside old hurts, roles and rivalries. Try to deal matter-of-factly with what your parents need now.

Get professional help. Clergy, social workers or geriatric care managers can provide an objective view of your parents’ situation. They can also facilitate family meetings.

Communicate candidly. If you’re the primary caregiver, be specific in requesting help. Do you want someone to take Mom to medical appointments? Sit with Dad while you go the gym? Help pay for respite care? Say, “I need…,” not “You should…” If you live far away, check in often and ask how you can be more involved with your parents’ care. You might handle online orders and bill paying, or schedule appointments, for example.

Stay in touch. Parents tell kids different things because their relationship with each child is different. Share information so you can get a more complete picture of what’s going on. Keep everyone in the loop via group text, a shared online document or an app like Lotsa Helping Hands.

Go to solvingfamilyconflict.com for more on sharing caregiving with siblings. For more tips and resources for family caregivers, visit caregiverstress.com.

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