When elderly parents fall ill, the responsibility falls on their children and other younger family members. Looking after an aging parent is difficult and, while it can be easier if you have several siblings, it’s not always easy to share caregiving duties and come to an agreement that satisfies everyone.
Problems Sharing Caregiving with your Siblings
Everyone reacts differently when a loved one suffers from serious health problems, and this is especially true for adult children caring for sick parents. Family dynamics change, the situation becomes tense, everyone has their own opinion of how things should be addressed, and, as the caregiving tasks are shared, disagreements and arguments are common.
Here are a few of the most common problems:
Siblings Who Take Control
In every family, there’s usually one outspoken sibling who tries to take control. He or she might be the oldest and they might just be the loudest, but when discussing caregiving roles they may try to take over and delegate.
It can help to have someone in charge, but only if they are sharing responsibilities evenly and thinking about everyone’s needs. For instance, they may assign more responsibilities to another sibling, dismiss options that others have proposed, and insist that their way is the best way.
As hard as it is to shoot this sibling down, it’s important to keep them on the same level as everyone else and to make sure everyone voices their problems and their disagreements. The last thing you want is a family member who feels forced into assuming a role they can’t handle, only to give up at a later date or allow that role to take over their lives.
Arrange a family meeting to speak with your other siblings. Make sure everyone is on the same level and remind them that, while the ultimate goal is to provide support for your parent’s needs, everyone still has their own lives and responsibilities to think about.
Siblings Who Won’t Help
Some siblings may be willing to help and throw all of their spare time toward helping their parents, but others may be reluctant and take a step back even though they have free time and there are multiple ways they can help.
It’s important to remember that you can’t force someone to help if they don’t want to. You can try to convince them, but ultimately they will do what they want and, as frustrating as it is, it’s something you often have to deal with.
Rather than getting angry with them, try reasoning with them. Maybe they don’t want to clean, cook, or help with mobility issues, but they could provide some financial or emotional support. Alternatively, they could take the care recipient to medical appointments or purchase a few groceries every now and then.
There will be a way that they can help. If there’s not, don’t let that stop you from providing help. It’s unfair and it’s frustrating when a sibling refuses to do their bit, but you’re not children anymore and you have to remember that the parent’s needs are what matters.
Siblings that Can’t or Won’t Get Along
It’s harder to provide everything that a parent needs if you despise your sibling to the point where you can’t stand being around them. Regardless, don’t let your hatred for your brother or sister stop you from helping your mother or father. Find a way to make it work, even if it means scheduling different days and tasks and running these by your parent so you don’t have to speak with your sibling.
While this is extreme sibling hatred, sometimes siblings are happy to speak face-to-face but find that every time they do, they argue or disagree. Throw a stressful situation like a sick parent into the mix and it can ramp up the tension and lead to endless arguments.
One sibling may insist that a nursing home or home care service is the only solution, while another may volunteer their own services or insist that everything needs to stay within the family.
As difficult as it can be, it’s important to hear all sides, stay calm, and be rational about things. If they’re insisting on a nursing home but you know it’s too expensive, show them the figures and ask them how they think the fees will be paid. If they’re insisting on providing around-the-clock care, remind them you have your own life to lead and can’t devote that much time.
Siblings Who Try to Guilt-Trip You
Your needs and the needs of your children have to come before the needs of your parent. That doesn’t mean you’re being selfish and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re being dismissive, you’re just doing what’s best for your family and your well-being.
Don’t let other family caregivers guilt-trip you into assuming more responsibilities than you can. Just because they have assumed the role of a primary caregiver and have devoted their time to your parent’s needs doesn’t mean you need to be just as dedicated.
If they live nearby, are unemployed, and don’t have children living at home, their responsibilities are clearly not equal to someone who lives far away, has a full-time career, and has to care for several young children.
Remind them that you want to help, but that you have your limits and are not willing to jeopardize your career or family to meet a parent’s long-term care needs.
How to Share Caregiving Responsibilities: Top Tips
To make sure care duties are evenly distributed and everything is fair and amicable, take a look at the following tips:
- Listen to everyone’s opinions and ideas
- Understand that opposing opinions can have their own merits
- Remember that your parent is a priority without forgetting about your own needs
- Look into support groups and respite care services
- Check with senior care resources, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance and the AARP
- Consider home health and nursing home options
- Support each other. Don’t forget that you’re in this together and all have the same goal
- Acknowledge that mistakes will happen with inexperienced caregivers and that it’s not the end of the world when they do
- Consider the needs of your siblings and yourself, as well as the needs of your parent