SIBLING RIVALRY AND CAREGIVING – SURVIVING THE JOURNEY

No matter what the dynamics are, calling a truce among siblings when parental caregiving issues come up will benefit the entire family.

caring for elderly parents

  • 43.5 million people take care of a parent or relative.
  • 51% of those taking care of an older relative are doing this alone.
  • 85% of them have siblings.

We are not really prepared for the task of caregiving. We are living longer, but when health and cognitive issues start to decline in our loved ones, the need for family intervention becomes clear. Family dynamics are complicated, and at this time, the rivalries can erupt. The dynamics that existed as you were growing up, such as how you felt about each other, how your parents interacted with each of you and the expectations that they had of each of you, persist at that time of need.

No matter what the dynamics are, calling a truce among siblings would be beneficial for everyone. You don’t have to become best friends, but the care for a loved one has to come first. Taking a step back and considering this is vital at this time of all of your lives. Focus only on issues concerning your parents. If that is not possible, bring in a professional. A geriatric Care Manager, a family therapist, or clergy could help all of you communicate objectively and realistically. When siblings coordinate efforts to care for parents, the parents receive better care overall.

Watching a parent age and finally die is one of the hardest events in our lives. Recognize that caregiving is hard work and can be frustrating. Conflicts on issues of care, safety, transportation and living situations come up. It is important that families discuss these issues when the need is not at a crisis level. Mutual respect is extremely important. Accept that each person responds to these situations differently. Allow one another time to vent frustrations. Show compassion and it will come back to you.

As a primary caregiver, having ongoing conversations with your siblings about your parents’ needs, can bring an understanding on the decisions that are being made. Often times, there is so much resentment between brothers and sisters that no one communicates. Discussing what each sibling can bring to the table can alleviate old family roles. Don’t assume that whoever has always had the “responsible” role is the person that will have to make the sacrifice of doing everything. Discuss amongst yourselves what each one of you can do. In caring for a loved one, there are so many roles that need to be taken on. Find each other’s strengths and weaknesses and see how this benefits the overall care your parents receive. One person can be the coordinator of care, one can take on the responsibility for paying bills and administrative tasks, one may do the grocery shopping and physician appointments.  By having a list of all the tasks that now have to be taken on, each sibling can do what they do best.

Be good to yourself and be kind to each other.