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A Sibing's Guide to Caring for An Aging Parent

It's a difficult situation when one of your aging parents need more care than you can provide. As their child, you want to do everything you can to ensure they're comfortable and safe. But it's not always possible to be there for them 24/7. If you have siblings, now is the time to start talking about how you can best support your parent as they age. By working together and sharing the load, you can make sure your parent gets the care they need while still maintaining some sense of normalcy in their life. Here's a sibling's guide to caring for an aging parent.

Many issues can arise when a group of siblings come together to plan the care of their parent. We know each other well. We do not have any credibility with our siblings as they have seen us at our best and at our worst. We are equals in their eyes. The birth order can influence how a sibling views a situation. Please be patient and try to come together for the one common goal of getting the best care possible for your parents.

Try to remove any conflict that may come up. We will address this more later. Money can cause some heated discussions and make sure to get that elephant out of the room early on.

In this blog post we will be covering seven topics that will help you and your siblings get on the same page when it comes to caring for your aging parent. We have included our video where we discussed this topic more in-depth.

1. Get to Know Your Siblings: What we mean by that is that we are all different. Growing up together we learn our trigger points and what buttons to push. We know what upsets each other and what makes us happy. Start with a list and write down all the siblings names and under each name jot down a few things to keep in mind as you begin the plan to care for an aging parent. Example: Joe could never help mom with her bath. That is way outside of his comfort zone.

2. Establish the Decision-Making Process: Are there any written documents addressing the decision-making process for health care or financial related decisions? Is there a Power of Attorney for Health Care or a Living Will? Another name could be Advanced Directives for Health Care. How about a Irrevocable Trust? What documentation is completed when it comes to addressing their financial decisions. Is there a Financial Power of Attorney set up? Is there any long-term care insurance policies that you know of that may help in paying for some care in the home or at a facility?

3. Determine Each Sibling’s Zone of Genius: Let’s go back to the list with the names of your siblings on it. Now under each name let’s look at what ways they can participate in the care of your parent. What are they good at? What are their strengths? What kind of tasks would be in their comfort zone?

4. How to Involve Out of Town Siblings: What can be done to contribute to the tasks of caring for an aging parent when the parents do not live close by? Depending on the zone of genius for the out-of-town siblings, some things such as phone calls, making doctor’s appointments. Doing a daily phone check. Reminding parent(s) to take their medication, ordering take out, purchasing any equipment or supplies and having them be sent to the home. There are lots of ways to involve these siblings in the care of your parent. They might not be providing the “hands-on” care, but they are saving everyone time by helping with these tasks.

5. Addressing Conflict: When siblings get together to plan the care of their parents, some form of conflict is often the case. The role you have is to get these conflicts out in the open with good communication. If you discuss them before the crisis occurs, you will be able to deal with them quickly and effectively. For example, a common cause of contention is that a sibling feels not everyone is doing their fair share of the caregiving load. A second common issue comes up when the out-of-town sibling is made to feel guilty because they are not there to help in person. They also could be feeling left out and wanting to do more. It is important to make sure everyone has their assignments based on their zone of genius and their circumstances. Good communication here is key. Try setting up a weekly video call, conference call, zoom, skype, or however your family likes to communicate. Updates can be given on the parents. This helps the out-of-towners feel like they are kept in the loop. As issues arise, they can be discussed in real time and addressed efficiently and effectively.

Another area of conflict that is bound to come up is the differences siblings may have on what type of medical treatments the parent(s) should have. Resuscitate or Do Not Resuscitate. All the siblings need to focus on is what the parent(s) want. We all need to respect their choices. It may not be the choices we would make but we must honor their wishes. We have to be ok with their decision and respect them. Things can get heated and emotional especially during a health crisis. It is better that these concerns get addressed upfront rather than in the heat of the moment. No one likes to have these conversations but time and time again in our nursing practice we have seen families torn apart because these types of issues were never discussed prior to the health emergency or an unexpected decline in the health of a parent.

6. A United Front: No matter what try to have a united front when it comes to being around your parent(s). Your parents love you all very much. They already feel like they have become a burden on you. Try not to make it worse by fighting in front of them about what type of care they should receive. Do your best to be in agreement when working with your parents.

7. A Plan Everyone Can Live With: The whole purpose of getting together with your siblings to plan out the cares of your parents is to put a plan in place everyone can live with. It may not be perfect for everyone but it needs to be at least acceptable and you can agree to disagree on certain points if necessary. Keep in mind that the plan needs to reflect the level of care that your parents want. Sometimes your parents may not agree with what is in their best interest. This can be hard because as a child you want your parent to be safe and well-cared for. As your parent, they want to remain as independent as possible and often remind you that they are “still your parent” and they are perfectly able to make their own decisions. For more on this subject, you might want to check out our blog post on “Asking Your Parent to Stop Driving” for more insights and when parents resist your suggestions.

In your planning process you may want to consider these things:

· Social interaction for your parents

· Do they need help with meals?

· Do they need help with bathing?

· Having a Plan B if your folks cannot continue to stay safely in the home. Where would they go?

· What equipment or safety concerns that can be modified at home to make things easier such as a ramp, shower chair or bench, railings in the hallway, meals on wheels, getting a walker, or asking the doctor for a home safety evaluation by a therapist to suggest what equipment would be beneficial to have in the home?

· Do you need a patient advocate to help you sort all of this out?

· Who will get them to their doctor appointments?

· How will all the tasks be organized.

Calendar app such as or another online calendar program to allow everyone to be on the same page. You may be able to use the Patient Portal from your hospital and clinic if they have a messaging function for families.

So, there you have it, our seven-step guide to settling sibling disputes when it comes to caregiving for an aging parent. We know this can be a difficult and emotional process, but with a plan that takes everyone’s genius into account, hopefully these steps will make the situation easier for all involved. Keep in mind that we are always here to help if you need more assistance navigating these waters. As always, feel free to get on our email list so you don’t miss out on any of our upcoming blog posts – including our upcoming sibling course on caring for an aging parent as well as upcoming videos and blog posts that can help you address this labor of love!

We have added a Summary or a Checklist to help you and your siblings address and plan for the care of your parents. You can grab that HERE. If you would like to get on the email list to stay informed of our new posts, videos, and courses as well as how patient advocates can assist you in caring for your aging parent you can get on the list HERE. We will include another checklist titled “How to Know When Your Parents Need Help in the Home” as a thank you for getting on the email list.

We are planning a course to assist siblings in working out their parent’s caregiving plan in more details so make sure you get on the email list if this is something you would be interested in. We have other blog posts and videos that deal with all the topics you need to put a plan in place so it may be worth it to take the time to check some of them out. We also have a blog post on How to Hire A Private Caregiver, Is it Worth the Risk?” This includes another checklist to have handy.

Thanks for stopping by and spending some time with us! We appreciate you! Please feel free to leave a comment if this was helpful or to ask a question. We will get it answered asap!

Take care,


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