Sharing Senior Care

Tips to Help Sibling Caregivers Plan and Work Together

Brothers and sisters don’t often share. Mind blowing…right? How can siblings who once couldn’t agree on household chores now be expected to create a fair plan for taking care of their now senior mom or dad in their Minnesota home? The answer…they’re not expected to tackle caregiving alone. Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis can help.

According to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care® network, sharing the care of elderly parents can put a strain on the relationship between adult siblings. In 43 percent of U.S. families, one sibling has the responsibility for providing most or all of the care for Mom or Dad, according to a survey of family caregivers. In only two percent of families did the siblings split the caregiving responsibility equally.*

“Senior caregiving can either bring families together or cause brother and sister conflict,” says sibling relationships expert Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., from the University of Western Ontario. “In some cases it can do both. These issues can be very emotional.” Connidis has worked with Home Instead Senior Care to develop the 50-50 RuleSM public education program to help siblings deal with the many issues of caregiving. Following are tips on how siblings can better share the care.

1.      Talk and listen. Research shows that seniors are so concerned about maintaining independence that they forfeit getting support. That’s why it’s important to communicate, preferably before your family is in the midst of caregiving.

Talk with mom or dad about what they need and want as they age. Would they prefer to stay at their Minnesota home? What type of home care would they like? Do they have a will or medical directive? All of these issues are better handled before a crisis occurs. To begin, schedule a meeting or telephone conference. Listen to each other’s questions and concerns then list the resources that your family will need through this journey.

2.      Research options. When you and your siblings have identified the types of services, interventions or care options that your senior needs, research elder organizations and resources in the Minneapolis community that can help. Try to divide the tasks so everyone has input and the opportunity to share their ideas. A good place to start is by doing online research on websites such as http://www.IHLCaregiver.com and www.caring.com.

Those sites can help you identify resources in your Minneapolis are community such as volunteer networks and senior service providers. Your parent’s doctor or a geriatric care manager can be of assistance as well. Contact us to get a copy of the book “Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions,” for more resources and information about the changes you can expect to see in your elderly loved one.

3.      Plan ahead. Once home care needs and senior care resources are identified, you and your siblings will have a better idea what will be required of your family. For example, if your loved one wants to stay at home, consider whether someone in the family will be supplementing that care or if you will divide those duties among siblings. If you will be contracting for outside resources for your dad such as meals on wheels or in-home care, not as much hands-on care will be required of your family, but someone will need to coordinate that schedule. Remember that inheritance issues and estate planning disagreements also can lead to family conflict so contact a professional in those areas.

4.      Be flexible. Needs of a senior change as they age. Your family’s lives will change too. If dividing caregiver tasks equally isn’t feasible, consider a division of labor that takes into account each family member’s interests and skills, as well as their availability.

5.      Be honest. Even siblings who live in the same Minneapolis community can find it difficult to stay in touch and be candid about what’s happening to their senior loved one. It’s important to remain in regular contact with your brothers and sisters to avoid miscommunication and hard feelings. If you have become the primary caregiver and it’s getting to be too much, make sure your siblings know that you need help. Discuss specific tasks they can help you with such as grocery shopping or running errands. If you don’t live in Minnesota, check in often with the primary caregiver to see how it’s going. A geriatric care manager can serve as an important third-party mediator if conflict arises and an in-home care company such as Home Instead Senior Care can provide respite and hands-on support.

* The study, conducted by The Boomer Project, included 711 adults in the U.S. ages 35-64 with living siblings or stepsiblings, who said they either currently provide care for a parent or older relative, or did provide care in the past 18 months.

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