How to Work With Siblings to Care for an Aging Parent

How to work with siblings to care for your aging parent

Can’t we all just get along? If you’re having trouble working with your siblings to care for an aging parent, you may be asking yourself this question.

Making decisions and providing practical support as a team can be tough — especially if you live in different cities.

If you’re one of the many families dealing with conflict in caregiving, here are some strategies to help make the process go more smoothly.

1. Leave the past behind.

Before entering into an important discussion about your parent’s health and care, you need to let go of hard feelings and past conflicts with your siblings. It’s easy to go on autopilot and relive old childhood dynamics. Instead, it’s important to remember you are all grown up and aren’t the same people you were 30 years ago. 

2. Remember you have the same goal.

According to the AARP, when siblings coordinate efforts to care for parents, the parents receive better overall care. When discussing your parent’s care with your siblings, keep in mind that you all want your mom or dad to live a long and healthy life, you just may have different ideas about how to get them there. Remind yourself and each other that you all want what’s best for your parents.

3. Step into each other’s shoes. 

Each sibling will handle the aging of a parent differently depending on their family relationships, personality, distance from home, and other responsibilities. Siblings who live nearby may have a different perspective when it comes to recognizing the warning signs that mom or dad is at risk. Try to see things from your sibling’s point of view. You might even consider swapping care responsibilities for a day or weekend.

4. Have a family meeting.

Regular family meetings help keep everyone on the same page. They also ensure that you and your siblings are having your discussion when you and your siblings are able to give the matter your full attention and are not distracted by work or responsibilities at home.

Set an agenda for the meeting and stick to it.

Here are some tips for a productive family meeting

  • Focus on the present; try not to bring up past or unrelated issues.
  • Share your feelings and concerns with siblings instead of making accusations. Focus on “I” statements. For example, “I feel that mom needs help with…”
  • Listen and respect the opinions of all involved. Give everyone time to speak.
  • If possible, get a professional assessment of your parent’s condition from a doctor, social worker, or geriatric care manager and send the report to all participants prior to the meeting.

5. Allow everyone to contribute.

Resentment can fester when one sibling feels like they are contributing more to their parents’ care than another. Let go of the idea of a perfect division of care. Instead, focus on utilizing everyone’s strengths and doing what is most efficient. Keep resentment at bay by determining what support you are willing and able to give — and then stick to that. Don’t feel pressured to take on extra responsibilities just because your brother or sister isn’t stepping up in the way you feel they should. Allow everyone to contribute in their own way, and when a sibling contributes with their time or money, it’s important that others acknowledge their efforts. 

6. See the best in others.

No one knows how to push your buttons quite like your siblings do. So, it’s easy to think that your siblings are intentionally doing something to upset you. However, as adults, that’s rarely the case. By and large, everyone is doing the best they can to juggle a myriad of responsibilities. Choose to assign positive intent and assume the best in others. Look for the positive in your siblings.

7. Consider outside help.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), about 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some degree of long-term care services during their lifetime. 

At some point, your parent(s) may need more support than you and your siblings are able to provide.

Senior living communities can help provide excellent care for your parents or loved ones. Keep an open line of communication with your parents and siblings, and watch for caregiver burnout as you help your parents throughout the aging process.

Reaching out for help does not mean you are neglecting your parents or letting the family down. These resources are there to partner with you to ensure that your loved one’s needs are being fully met.

Start Good Communication Habits Today

Building good communication habits with your siblings before your aging parents need help is essential. Taking these initial steps can make decision-making easier when you have the support of your brothers and sisters.

Interested in learning more? The Caregiver’s Journey eBook is a resource designed to help you navigate the challenges and crossroads of caring for your aging parent or loved one. 

Contact us to learn more.