It’s common, in many families, for one sibling to become a primary caregiver for aging parents. The reasons vary. Sometimes the sibling who lives closest ends up doing the most by default. In other families, there is an unspoken understanding that one or another sibling is more “suited” to the task, seems to have more time or fewer responsibilities, etc. However, when a sibling feels an unfair burden and needs help, ways to negotiate with other family members include the following:

  • Review and discuss the types of care and support your aging parent needs, right now and in the future. Perhaps the list may include helping your parent with grocery shopping, transportation to medical appointments, and assistance with home maintenance chores. Once the needs are identified, begin a conversation about who can help with what, and set up a schedule everyone can agree on.
  • Keep emotions in check. Bringing up old hurts and resentments will not be productive and likely put everyone on the defensive. Focus on the caregiving goals that have been identified, and take the approach that this is a team effort.
  • Plan for emergencies and health crises. What power of attorney directives are in place? What will happen in the event of a health crisis, a hospitalization, or other problem in which family members will need to mobilize quickly and make decisions?
  • Look for creative solutions. Perhaps you anticipate that your sibling will come up with excuses as to why he/she can’t help with caregiving. If distance is an issue, then maybe the sibling who lives farther away can assist with financial matters, dealing with insurance issues that may arise, or other tasks that can be accomplished by phone or computer.
  • Agree to check in with each other frequently. If one sibling is taking on the lion’s share of caregiving, that person will need respite to avoid emotional and physical burnout. Develop a plan that will allow for paid help when needed, and/or relief from other family members. Explore options that might allow for the primary caregiver to be reimbursed, such as through state programs or long-term care policies.

While an equal division of caregiving responsibilities might be ideal, the reality is usually different. If the family dynamics are contentious, the help of an objective party, such as a geriatric care manager, can facilitate a family meeting and help siblings come to an agreement about caregiving responsibilities.

Our work involves helping families balance the load, remove the tasks that we can do to lighten the load, and facilitate communication for all family members involved. If you need help, please contact us today at or 850-894-6720 and we’ll be happy to help you. We work with Tallahassee area families, every day, to bring peace to caregiving.