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Caregiving with Siblings

If you are like most of us who care for parents, you are not the only child in the family, but you may be the only one providing care.  This situation frequently results in feelings of anger and resentment, not only on the part of the caregiver, but also the siblings not involved in the care.  Therefore, it's a good idea to include siblings in your caregiving plans.  If your siblings can pitch in and help, it will be a relief for you and if they can't (won't), it's out in the open and has the chance to be resolved while your parent is still alive.  All too often these issues fester and only emerge when funeral arrangements are being made.  This can tear a family apart forever and it is the last thing your parent would have wanted.

There are a few things to keep in mind when caring for a parent:

  1. Accept your siblings for who they are and what they can offer. Don't try to convince them to be the persons you wish they were.  They have relationships and feelings for your parent which may be different than yours.  You can't change that.
  2. Ask yourself what you really want from your siblings.  Even though caregiving is hard and tiring, we don't always want anyone else providing the care.  We may not want people in and out of our homes. We may not want our siblings' opinions about how things should be done.  Be specific about what you actually want.  Maybe it's just a thank you and pat on the back; maybe it's a night off once a month; maybe it's someone to do the shopping. 
  3. Avoid guilt trips. Even if you believe that your siblings should do more for your parent, making them feel guilty won't get the help you want. In fact, when people feel guilty, they become defensive and avoid you altogether.
  4. Avoid power struggles.  Sometimes a parent gets caregiving from one child but designates another with legal authority to handle certain matters. Your parent has a right to make that choice. You have a right to refuse to be the caregiver, but if you're not going to stop being the caregiver, then stop fighting about your parent's choice. It will only cause you more stress.
  5. Don't let inheritance issues break up your family.  You may feel entitled to a larger portion of any inheritance but in almost all cases, parents divide their estates equally between all the children. If this is a big issue for you, discuss it with your parent and siblings and address it now. It will explode after the death of your parent and that is not the legacy your parent wants to leave.
  6. If inheritance, power struggles or healthcare decisions are a source of conflict between you and your siblings, get professional help from a family mediator to resolve the issues.  Caregiving is a difficult challenge, it shouldn't be complicated by unresolved family issues.
  7. Cost sharing helps.  While some siblings may be more "hands on deck" than others, cost sharing can be very helpful lets those who live to far be able to help out financially.  New apps like Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay and others are making the transfer of money quick and easy.  There are also apps for overseas transfers like Xoom and the new Western Union app to make it so much easier than it has been in the past to send money to loved ones abroad.