Sharing isn’t always easy for brothers and sisters who grew up under the same roof. Divvying up the wealth of toys, bedrooms or vehicles may have been a challenge at your house and sharing the daily household chores could have led to family conflict as well.
Some things never change. According to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, sharing the care of aging parents can be as much of an obstacle for adult siblings. In 43 percent of U.S. families and 41 percent of Canadian families, one sibling has the responsibility for providing most or all of the care for Mom or Dad, according to a survey of family caregivers. In only two percent of families in the U.S. and three percent in Canada did the siblings split the caregiving responsibility equally.
“Senior caregiving can either bring families together or cause brother and sister conflict,” says sibling relationships expert Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., from the University of Western Ontario. “In some cases it can do both. These issues can be very emotional.” Connidis has partnered with Home Instead Senior Care to develop the 50-50 Rule education program to help siblings deal with the many issues of caring for a parent.
Following are tips on how siblings can better share the care.
1. Talk and listen. Research shows that parents care a lot about maintaining independence, often to the point that they also forfeit getting more support. That’s why it’s important to communicate, preferably before your family is in the throes of caregiving.
2. Research options. When you and your siblings have identified the types of services, aging or care options that your loved ones needs, look for organizations and resources that can help. Discuss with your siblings who in the family will handle this job. Try to divide the tasks so everyone has input and the opportunity to share their ideas. A good place to start is by doing online research on websites such as www.eldercare.gov and www.caring.com.
3. Plan ahead. When needs and resources are identified, you and your siblings will have a better idea what will be required of your family. For example, if your mother wants to stay at home and “age in place” consider whether someone in the family will be supplementing that care or if you will divide those duties among siblings.
4. Be flexible. Needs of a senior change as they age. So do the lives of you and your siblings. Rather than insisting that all of the caregiving tasks be divided equally, consider a division of labor that takes into account each family member’s interests and skills, as well as their availability.
5. Be honest. If you have become the primary caregiver and it’s getting to be too much, make sure your siblings know that you need help. Discuss specific tasks that your brother or sister can help you with such as grocery shopping or placing online orders. If you are a long-distance sibling, check in often with the primary caregiver to see how it’s going.
Not sure where to begin, or what options are available for your unique family situation? It can be quite overwhelming especially since most of us do not have past experience to pull from when it comes to eldercare. Reach out to our local care partners at Legacy Concierge Services. They’re conducting Zoom consultations during Covid-19 to discuss your loved ones care needs and what options are out there. Benefit of a Zoom call is no matter where sibling live, they all can be part of the conversation. You are not in this alone.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.