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The Sibling Factor: 5 Dos and Don’ts for Caring for Aging Parents Together

When is the last time you clashed with one of your siblings? If your answer has anything to do with your teen years, then you probably are not currently sharing the responsibility of caring for an aging parent. Without question, siblings can be a blessing when your parents begin to require more care, helping to shoulder emotional, financial or logistical burdens. But no matter how close you are as a family, it’s not uncommon for old rivalries to re-emerge as dynamics shift and difficult decisions have to be made.

Belmont Village Senior Living offers a few dos and don’ts to help siblings maintain healthy relationships and effectively communicate when caring for aging parents.

Don’t Expect Balance in Caregiving

In most families, one sibling takes on the majority of the caregiving duties for aging parents, often because of proximity. However, this doesn’t mean that the rest of the kids are off the hook. Even if siblings don’t live nearby, there are ways they can help, whether it’s visiting for a weekend or calling to offer support regularly. It’s also important for caregivers to reach out, rather than expecting help to appear. Ask for a break when family visits, let them know what they can do, and be willing to accept help when it is offered.

Do Spend a Few Days with Parents

Often primary caregivers and their siblings have differences of opinion about the amount of care they think their parents need. Caregivers see things day-to-day that siblings can’t observe over the phone or during quick visits.

“Spending a few days with an aging parent is a good way to gauge how they’re doing and where they might need a little more support,” said Beverly Sanborn, gerontologist for Belmont Village. “We often hear from family members after the holidays – they’ve spent more time with both the caregiver and their parents and they have a better understanding of what’s needed.”

Don’t Wait to Have Difficult Conversations

The first step for any family is to make a plan. How will you divide the load? Who will be available for the caregiver to take breaks? How will financial aspects be handled? Is it time to explore assisted living or additional support? These are all questions that should be outlined in a plan made with input from each sibling. Have a family meeting and discuss what each sibling can offer and parents’ preferences.

Do Reach Out Regularly

A weekly phone call can make all the difference. For caregivers, reaching out to siblings to share updates and ask for help when needed keeps aging parents top of mind. Siblings can reach out to caregivers and to mom and dad to show their support both practically by offering help and, maybe more importantly, lightening emotional burdens.

Don’t Assume Your Siblings Haven’t Changed

It can be easy to assume siblings are the same kids you grew up with. The result can be that childhood dynamics fall back into place, allowing old rivalries and expectations to re-emerge. Instead, take time to get to know one another again. Look for signs of growth and give siblings the chance to take on a role in caregiving or assistance.

At Belmont Village, our community teams are here to help and guide you through your senior living journey. You can find more helpful resources for your family on our resources page. To learn more about Belmont Village’s senior living options and programs, click here to find a community in your area.