Elderly parent caregiving – adult sibling squabbles

Elderly parent caregiving – adult sibling squabbles are defined in one word- disproportionate.

Although it is rarely intentional, most adult children providing primary elderly parent support feel the burn of unequal responsibility. And it is largely due to lack of planning.

Since caring for elderly parents is usually not addressed before it is needed, siblings stumble into the journey. And so begins the series of toe stubbing lessons of elderly parent caregiving.

Adult sibling mistakes

But….you argue- how can they be mistakes when we didn’t know? Most learn these  “goofs” well into the caregiving game.  As a result, the mistakes have become the norm. And the norm often leaves one sibling feeling somewhat burned.

But let’s back up and list the most common adult sibling mistakes. http://us news.com offered a comprehensive account of how adult siblings handle the new “normal” of elderly parent care: Common mistakes include:

  • Although it IS a family responsibility, one sibling usually carries the heaviest load. The mistake is: the other siblings think –” I’m off the hook!” NOPE – even those living far away can help out – a LOT.
  • Failing to give appreciation and emotional support to the primary caregiver. The sibling doing the heavy lifting wants and needs be acknowledged. They don’t want to be alone in this.
  • Falling prey to the I shouldn’t have to ask for help!” As bone deep true as this feels to the primary caregiver, COMMUNICATION is the key here. If you are the primary, ASK for help. 
  • Assuming that siblings are the same as they were as kids. The big risk is that siblings often revert back to childhood roles. The oldest – especially the female- falls into the big sister/good example role. Or…the sibling who lives far away is given the most slack. 
  • NOT PLANNING FOR THE REALLY TOUGH STUFF AHEAD   The bold, all caps font here is NO mistake. The road ahead gets tougher, narrower and rockier. There are many issues to be in front of! Examples include power of attorney , end of life, finances, burial vs. cremation to name just a few.
  • Inheritance – This can be a really sticky topic AND disproportionate!  Regardless of circumstances MOST parents leave equal shares to their children. 
  • AND…..there are siblings who will not help. They refuse or just fail to show up. 

Softening sibling squabbles

Here’s  a cardinal reality for elderly parent caregiving – adult sibling squabbles- there is NO fair. The list of unequal and unfair is long. Instead of that focus soften the squabbles with these suggestions:

  • Realize that each sibling has priorities. We are never really on the same page. One sibling’s”logic” may seem like a slam to another. Examples are: the sibling without children is not necessarily the “logical” primary caregiver. Another may be: the sibling with the most money is not always the one to pick up more of the expenses. AND….the sibling who lives the farthest away is NOT “off the hook”.
  • Share the load. Each sibling CAN pick up some of the responsibility!
  • Communicate. Be specific. Compromise.
  • If you have tried everything to enlist your sibling’s help and they WON’T -DROP it!  You have enough to deal with already! Remember – there  is NO fair here.

This is a BIG topic!  And one that most adult siblings with elderly parents experience. 

This post scratched the surface. Stay tuned for more on this in future posts.

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About the Author

Julie Green

- 35 Years as an Educator and Administrator of an Alternative High School and Juvenile Detention Center.
- 5 Years as Director of Education in a residential, therapeutic treatment center for young adults unable to function successfully in society.
- 14 Years (and current active involvement) as primary caregiver for my own parents .
- 9 Years as Facilitator for local retiement adjustment group
- Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.)
- Three Master's Degrees (M. Eds) in Learning Remediation, Vocational Education and Administration.
- Certified Family Transitions Coach (Certified Through Coach Training Alliance)
- Active member of International Coach Federation.
- Lifelong learner and practitioner of gracefully applying grit to life's challenging transitions.

Email: Julie@JulieGreen.org

Phone: 208-755-2824



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