Siblings and Senior Caregiving
Sibling relationships can face stress when a parent needs care.
Life is stressful, and family caregiving can make it more so.
Adult caregivers who have started a new job, or are raising children or caring for their own spouse can soon become overwhelmed when elderly family members need help. Often, the primary family caregiver wants or needs more help from siblings, but isn’t getting it.
On top of the stress of aging parents, the dynamics of family relationships often thrusts one sibling into the role of primary caregiver for an aging parent. In turn, this creates an “anything you can do I can do better” tug of war between brothers and sisters who should be working together for the best interests of their senior parents.
This inability to effectively work together often leads to one sibling becoming responsible for the bulk of caregiving, which can then contribute further to the deterioration of sibling relationships.
Three key factors, more than any others, will determine if relationships between adult children will deteriorate, and whether the quality of care to the parent will be compromised. Those factors are the adult children’s ability to make important decisions together, their ability to divide the caregiving workload and their level of teamwork.
How most siblings say their senior parent caregiving tasks are divided:
- 43 percent say one brother or sister does most or all of the caregiving
- 18 percent say two or more siblings share responsibilities, with one or more much less involved
- 16 percent say they participate based on their skill
- 6 percent say they take turns with caregiving tasks
- 2 percent say they divide caregiving equally
- 15 percent say they make some other arrangement
When asked, most adult children will tell you they believe the most important characteristics for a caregiver are patience, reliability, a positive attitude, empathy and good communication skills. Yet most family caregivers give themselves high ratings for reliability and communication skills and score themselves lowest for patience, financial management and medical skills. Go figure!
Those same family caregivers who say they personally take on the most caregiving responsibilities, including helping with errands and medication management, are the same individuals who say their family is poor at making important decisions together, hence the division of the caregiving workload remains uneven.
Family caregivers often admit that their relationships with their siblings have deteriorated as a result of their parental caregiving duties. <ost believe this happens because their siblings are not willing to help out more. Factually, the primary family caregiver spends 19 hours a week providing care, compared with the four to five hours a week provided by other siblings —an obvious discrepancy.
Family caregiving can be stressful under any circumstances, but certain situations are hot-button triggers. Ignoring the triggers can make the life of caregiving siblings more difficult and eventually leads to family conflict.
If this is happening in your family, look no further for help. Home Instead Senior Care has a 50-50 program that looks to deal with this. The 50-50 Rule refers to the average age (50) when siblings are caring for their parents, as well as the need for brothers and sisters to share in the plans for care 50-50 as much as possible.
At the core of this 50-50 public education program is a family relationship and communication guide of real-life situations that features practical advice from sibling relationship expert Dr. Ingrid Arnet Connidis from the University of Western Ontario. She states that “Regardless of their circumstances, most siblings do feel a responsibility to care for parents that is built from love. And that’s a good place to start – optimistically and assuming the best.”
Believing that just as the effectiveness of the caregiving team relies on three primary factors, so does the quality of the sibling relationships.
For more information about this free guide and other resources, contact Home Instead Senior Care or visit www.solvingfamilyconflict.com