Caregiving with Siblings - Part 2: Four Tips to Gain the Support of Siblings

In Caregiving with Siblings – Part 1 of this two-part series on adult siblings jointly providing care to aging parents, we followed the story of Christine, age 56, who was overwhelmed as the primary caregiver for her aging mother. Her brother resides out-of-town and her sister is neglecting her share of the caregiving load. According to AARP, an estimated 44 million people are acting as family caregivers, making Christine’s situation a common one for families across the country.
Adult Children with Professional as Caregiving Team
While one sibling may be appointed as the primary caregiver for an aging parent, it is vital that the other siblings support caregiving efforts and participate in the overall process. This support will promote emotional and physical well-being for all involved caregivers.  However, gaining the support of siblings can be one of the most challenging aspects of bringing together an efficient caregiving team. Below we outline four tips to help unify your siblings in providing the best possible care for elderly parents:

1. Ask yourself what it is that you really expect from your siblings
Some people may need siblings to step in and take a role in actual care. For instance, assisting with meal preparation or housekeeping on certain days of the week. Likewise, other family caregivers may need assistance with managing finances or simply someone to talk to when Mom or Dad has had a difficult day. Before approaching your siblings for help, evaluate exactly what it is that you want from them and be prepared to turn over responsibilities in the area that you asked for assistance. Many caregivers find that although they want help, turning over control can be challenging.

2. Accept your siblings for who they are
When working with your siblings, it is important to remember that you can’t control who they are, how they think, or what they feel. Not all family members may share the same emotional investment in caregiving, or express their feelings in the same way. Try not to expect how your siblings “should” feel or act, and instead strive to accept and work with their personalities to provide the best care for your parents.

3. Be aware of how you ask for help; and don’t intentionally make siblings feel guilty
When frustration is influencing communication, it’s easy to lose sight of how you are speaking to or dealing with others, especially when it comes to siblings. Be aware of your tone, body language and words to avoid making siblings feel defensive before the conversation has even started. Likewise, making siblings feel guilty for their lack of involvement or differing opinions may lead to an uncomfortable discussion fueled by anger and frustration rather than productive communication.

4. Seek assistance from someone outside the family
Sometimes an outside point-of-view can be highly beneficial to facilitating communication with siblings. Regardless of how healthy your sibling relationships are, providing care for elderly parents can be a highly stressful situation that is difficult to talk about without overreacting or fighting unrelated battles. However, the assistance of an outside professional, such as a mediator, social worker or geriatric care manager may be the best route to facilitating productive discussions about care decisions, estate planning and caregiving duties.

Caregiving with siblings is a reality that millions of American’s are facing on a daily basis. By taking steps to foster positive communication and support one another as much as possible, providing care for elderly parents can be a rich experience.

Have you found effective ways to gain the support of your siblings when it comes to caregiving duties? Leave a comment and share your experience with other sibling caregivers.

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