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Coordinating a Parent’s Care with Siblings

In most families, sibling caregiving roles are not discussed and this can leave siblings with clashing ideas on the care that is needed and who will provide it. Below are practical strategies for connecting with siblings and maximizing what each person can contribute to the caregiving process.

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Sep 10, 2023

When the needs of an aging parent increase and caregiving is needed, this can lead to challenges for siblings as they seek to determine the level of care needed and how to go about caring for their parent.  Different perspectives and personalities can contribute to added stress in an already stressful caregiving situation.

Here are a few strategies to help adult children join together while taking care of a parent and hopefully avoid emotional pitfalls that can strain and damage sibling relationships.

Open Communication Channels

Communicating with family members in an organized way can help everyone stay informed of a parent’s condition and how they can best be involved. Tools to improve family communication include phone apps (CaringBridge, CareZone or Caring Village) and virtual family meetings (Zoom or Microsoft Teams).

Divide Responsibilities

Sharing care among busy siblings can be complicated, like putting together pieces of a puzzle. Keeping a clear list of needs and responsibilities can allow siblings to contribute in ways they are able and streamline the scheduling process.  This list might include items such as administering medication, communicating with a long-term care facility, coordinating physical therapy, handling household chores, replenishing medical and personal supplies, and scheduling doctor’s appointments.

Help Long-Distance Caregivers Get Involved

Having a list of ways that non-local siblings can get involved can help all siblings feel like they are making a meaningful caregiving contribution.  These tasks may include:

  • Scheduled FaceTime/phone calls with parents
  • Managing finances
  • Filing insurance claims
  • Dealing with Medicare/Medicaid issues
  • Paying for lawn care
  • Providing a restaurant or grocery gift card

Have a Primary Caregiver

It is common for one child to emerge as a primary caregiver for an aging parent.  Whether it is by choice or by geographic location, understanding that one sibling will most likely take the lead on certain decisions and hands-on care is important in the process of all siblings determining their roles and how they can contribute to their parent’s care. In addition, it will be helpful for the other siblings to support the primary caregiver in this role.

Get Support When Caregiving Roles are Unequal

It can be easy for tension to build between siblings when caregiving roles are not equal. Some siblings may be more emotionally equipped to handle their parent’s decline, further contributing to role imbalances.  In addition to nurturing honest communication with one another and assigning meaningful roles for each sibling, it can be helpful to seek out support such as individual counseling or joining a support group for long-distance caregivers to help process the emotions that arise when collaborating care with siblings.

Play to Each Sibling’s Strength

Are you a nurturer and a strong hands-on caregiver? Are you a cheerleader and encourager for someone providing care?  Are you gifted with keeping records, communicating with businesses and handling finances?  Work with your siblings to determine each person’s strengths and divide necessary caregiving tasks based on these personality strengths.

Adapted from U.S. News, health.usnews.com/senior-care/caregiving/articles/coordinate-aging-parents-with-siblings. Visit the link for more valuable tips.