Caregiving and Sibling Relationships (part 1 of 3) – Single Caregiver

As seniors get older, they often have to rely on their children more for things they used to do on their own. It may even come to the point where they live with one of their children. This situation can put a strain on many relationships, including siblings.

Caregiving is a challenge no matter how much you love your parents. When there are multiple siblings, that increases the challenges and many issues arise during this time. It will test the strength of these relationships, but it will also help them develop to a new level. Several problems can develop during this time, based on different scenarios. The first part of this series deals with the situation where one child becomes the primary caregiver.

The Issues of a Single Caregiver

One of the biggest problems for siblings with an older parent is that one sibling generally becomes the main caregiver for the senior family member. It may be because they live the closest, they are the oldest, or they have the a better relationship with the parent. But one person is often unofficially designated as the lead caregiver, whether they asked for it or not.

If this person is doing almost all of the caregiving, they may begin to wear down and need a break. If they cannot get a break, this can cause resentment towards other siblings who they feel are not involved enough. They may begin to turn their parents against their siblings by telling them the others do not care as much. This may not be intentional but they voice their frustrations about their sister or brother to their parents.

A result of this frustration is that the parents are put in the middle. They are made to feel that they must choose between their children. They feel guilty if they are excited to see the child who is not the main caregiver, and the child who is the main caregiver may feel betrayed.

Another issue is that the caregiver may feel the right to make all of the decisions concerning their parent since they are taking care of them. Other siblings may not see this as the case and feel they are entitled to just as much say in the decisions since they are also their children. You will most often see this as a problem where money is involved and decisions on selling their senior parents’ home or placing them in a retirement home.

How to Deal with It

This is not an easy time for any of the family members. Emotions run high as the children watch their parents become more frail and dependent. Add to this the difficulties of caregiving or the guilt of being too far away to help and you have the perfect setting for conflict.

The best way to deal with this is to keep communication open. Discuss the situation with your siblings before it happens. Talk about the following:

  • Where will your parents go when they can’t stay by themselves? Is one sibling more obvious as the caregiver? How do they feel about it? Would an assisted living residence or a retirement home be an option?
  • How will the other siblings help out and how often? Will they give the caregiver a break on a weekly basis? Will they help out with finances?
  • Who will make decisions on the parent’s care and finances? Will it be made by one sibling or will it be a group decision?

Once the siblings have had a chance to discuss their feelings, they should involve their parents in the discussion. They should sit down with them and talk about the same subjects as in the sibling meeting. It is important that it be an open discussion where the parents have some input and can make their own choices rather than being told what they should do.

Situations change and decisions you have made may not be practical as time goes by and your parents health condition changes (physically or/and mentally). That is why it is important to address any changes in your parents’ health condition with your siblings and be willing to alter decisions that were made before in order to find the best solution for everyone involved.

You can make this situation easier if you use homecare services. They can help keep your parents at home and independent longer by assisting them with many tasks they cannot do on their own. Even after they have to move in with you or somewhere else, the caregivers can relieve you of many tasks such as running errands or doing their personal care.

At Carefect Homecare Services, we know this is a difficult situation for you and we are here to help. Our caregivers can assist your parents with many tasks such as personal care, meals preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, and much more. In addition, we can provide respite care for your senior loved ones to give you a break and time to care for your own needs.