Sharing the Care with Your Siblings

Here are some tips to help adult offspring work together to look after their aging parents.

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- Posted on Apr 20, 2015

Sharing the Care with Your Siblings

Caring for aging parents can bring families together, lead to sibling conflict, or both. Even when siblings are close, as Rebecca DeMarino and hers are, they might disagree on what’s best for Mom and Dad. Home Instead Senior Care, working with Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., a sibling relationships expert, has developed a program to help siblings overcome conflict and better share the care of their parents. Some tips:

Have a family meeting, ideally before you’re in a caregiving crisis. Use a video calling app like Skype for siblings who don’t live nearby. Discuss your parents’ needs and what each person can contribute in time and money. Talk regularly.

Be flexible. Parents’ needs change, as do your and your siblings’ lives. Don’t insist on splitting tasks equally. Work toward a division of labor that takes into account each family member’s skills and availability.

Let go of old roles and rivalries. Try to focus on what your parents need in the here and now.

Communicate clearly. If you’re the primary caregiver, be specific in asking for help. Do you want someone to take Dad to doctors’ appointments? Do the grocery shopping? Sit with Mom while you go to the gym? Help pay for respite care?

Use “I need...” not “You should....” If you live far away, talk with your siblings and ask how you can be more involved. You might coordinate your parents’ care calendar online, or order and have medical supplies delivered, for example.

Research options. Look into services in your parents’ community. You can search by topic at eldercare.gov. If you’re considering hiring someone to provide in-home care, contact Home Instead Senior Care at (866) 996-1085 or homeinstead.com/guideposts for a free consultation.

Get professional help. Clergy, social workers or geriatric-care managers can give an objective view of your parents’ condition and needs. They can also facilitate family meetings and defuse emotionally charged situations.

Stay connected. Parents tell kids different things because their relationship with each child is different. Share information so you can have a full picture of Mom and Dad’s health. Use online tools like lotsahelpinghands.com to keep everyone in the loop. Go to solvingfamilyconflict.com to download a free brochure on caregiving with siblings. For more tips and resources for family caregivers, visit caregiverstress.com.

Read Rebecca DeMarino's story about caring for her father after he suffered a stroke.

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