Working with your siblings to provide care for an aging parent can be challenging. A lack of time, unresolved childhood issues, and financial disputes can all raise the level of tension in families. Added to that stress is how difficult it is to witness the decline of a senior loved one. To help adult children navigate through this situation, we curated a few tips other families found helpful.
Tips for Siblings When an Aging Parent Needs Help
• Conduct a Needs Assessment: Begin by objectively assessing your senior family member’s needs. What personal care activities are they no longer able to safely complete on their own? Are they having difficulty with household tasks such as meal preparation or paying bills? Don’t forget to ask your senior loved one what chores and tasks they need help with. Understand as you work your way through this not everyone in the family may agree on how much help a parent needs. Out-of-town siblings, for example, may be in denial about a parent’s decline because they don’t see them in person very often.
• Schedule a Family Meeting: The next step is scheduling a family meeting. Unless you feel it will be too stressful, include your parent in the discussion. Try to set the meeting up at a time when everyone can be there in person including long distance siblings. It will help everyone stay focused if you have a typed list of tasks your parent needs assistance with and a copy for everyone. Agree at the start of the meeting that everyone has the same goal: to make sure your mother or father receives the care they need. As you divide up the responsibilities, try to be flexible and patient. You will need to be willing to compromise and work together to find solutions. If one sibling lives too far away to help on a weekly basis, maybe they can cover the cost of an in-home caregiver or a weekly housekeeping service. If your brother isn’t comfortable helping your mother with personal care, his help may need to come in the form of mowing the lawn or doing the grocery shopping.
• Research Senior Care Options: While you and your siblings might be able to juggle personal responsibilities and caring for your parent for a while, there may come a time when the care they need becomes too much for all of you. This is especially true when a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. It’s important to develop a proactive plan for their future care needs or in the event something happens, and the primary caregiver is suddenly unavailable. That plan might include creating a list of potential in-home care providers and assisted living communities, making calls and scheduling visits.
• Communicate Frequently: Keeping the lines of communication open between siblings, friends, and other family members who are involved in the caregiving is critical. While it might be difficult to have in-person meetings often, video chat services such as Skype make communication easier. You can also use email or a group chat to update one another on changes you see, results of physician appointments, and more. If one sibling lives close and shoulders the majority of the caregiving, the out-of-town sibling should be responsible for calling the primary caregiver for updates and relaying that information to the remaining siblings.
Our final tip is to support one another. In most families, one adult child provides most of the care for an aging parent. If this is happening in your family, the non-caregiving siblings should remember to express their appreciation for everything the caregiving sibling is doing and try to find ways to physically and emotionally support them during this time.
This blog was originally published on June 12, 2015 and updated in 2023.