When parents and loved ones require caregiving, siblings often struggle to decide who can offer what kind of caregiving, and what is truly best for their loved one. This struggle can consume families and turn a loving action into a long struggle for control that can cause real harm to relationships and to seniors. Rather than squabble and argue over who is best to take the reins in caring for a senior, trying answering these questions as a group in order to determine who is best-equipped to provide the majority of care. It should also be noted that these are not in order of importance—feel free to prioritize certain questions above others, when considering the personal situation of your loved one/parent.
- Who has the time?Many seniors are able to get some in-home healthcare, such as wound-dressing or physical therapy, at home through their health insurance. This may cut down on the amount of time a caregiver must allot, but, without the given amount of time, a senior is left with their needs unfulfilled. Guaranteeing that you have the time to properly care for a loved one, depending on their needs, is vital.
- This can be answered through a frank discussion of social, work, and familial obligations. A sibling with two toddlers and a full-time job may find that caring for someone even a few hours a week can be very taxing, whereas a retired lawyer who does some consulting work and occasionally teaches classes at a local university may find that time is not an issue.
- Caregiving is a time-consuming process. And, depending on the individual situation of the senior in your care, it may be a 24/7 process or only need a few hours a week. This could also vary depending on changes—is your loved one having surgery and going to need more care for a few weeks or days after? Do they just need rides to the grocery store? Will your loved one need help cooking, cleaning, and bathing?
- Who has the resources?
- A caregiver must have some resources at their disposal, whether it be energy, money, or expertise. Finding the person with the most resources necessary to help your parent or loved one, and identifying how much of a given resource they will need, can help point to who may be best to care for them.
- Who has the expertise or experience?
- If there is someone in the family with experience caring for seniors, people with disabilities, or the particular loved one in need of care, this can weigh heavily in their favor. Caregiving is an intensely personal undertaking, and relies heavily on patience and knowledge to be effective. Someone who has already sharpened these skills will have a shorter adjustment period to caregiving and can make your loved one feel more comfortable.
- How can we each offer support?
- It may be that one name does not arise from the answer to each of these questions. This may mean a division of labor or resources. For example, a couple in their mid-eighties with six children may find that one child has the time and ability to care for them full-time, but would need financial support from other siblings in order to pay their bills. If the other siblings are in a position to help, they can contribute to their parents’ care by paying certain bills or agreeing to a price per month to reimburse their sibling for their labor. Other siblings may be able to take a loved one to the doctor, whereas others would be best helping around the house. Although there can be one “central” caregiver amongst siblings, it does not mean that other siblings should not or cannot participate and support each other in their own ways. The more sharing of responsibility, the less likelihood of caregiver burnout for a primary caregiver.
- What does our loved one want?
- Some parents have a preference for living in a certain place, such as somewhere close to their childhood home, somewhere with comfortable weather, or somewhere near their favorite vacation spot. Others may get along better with some of their children, or feel more or less comfortable with certain spouses. Still more may want to be close to any grandchildren as they grow up. Considering the priorities of the senior in your care can swing the dial toward or away from certain siblings, and they should be involved in the process of deciding who will be their primary caregiver and why.
- What changes would have to come about for us to re-examine this decision?
- In order to be an effective caregiving team for your parents/loved ones, you must be able to work together to constantly re-examine the needs of the seniors in your care. While your parents may need a certain level of care in May, that may change come December, and you should reconvene to re-plan. Keeping your parents at the center of the discussion and deciding who can offer them the best care and compromise will yield a more effective caregiving plan, and will keep your loved ones happier and healthier for longer.
Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Caregiving With Your Siblings. Available at https://www.caregiver.org/caregiving-with-your-siblings. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
Mulvey, Kate. Why is one sibling always left to care for elderly parents? And why, asks KATE MULVEY, did it have to be me… Daily Mail (July 15, 2015). Available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3162892/Why-one-sibling-left-care-elderly-parents-asks-KATE-MULVEY-did-me.html. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
Lawrence, Bonnie. A sibling’s guide to caring for aging parents. Family Caregiving Alliance (November 28, 2014). Available at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/youre-sharing-care-aging-parents/. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
Lyon, Lindsay. 9 Mistakes Adult Siblings Make When Parents Are Aging, Sick, and Dying. U.S. News & World Report (January 28, 2010). Available at http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/boomer-health/articles/2010/01/28/9-mistakes-adult-siblings-make-when-parents-are-aging-sick-and-dying. Retrieved May 11, 2016.