When multiple siblings must come together to determine how to care for aging parents, it is both a blessing and a burden. There are many people out there who are only children or do not have siblings who are able or willing to help. If you are caring for your aging parents with your siblings, the benefit is that none of you have to bear the burden alone. However, at times it can be hard for siblings to all come to a consensus on how to handle the care needs, the finances, the household, and other things.
Quite often geography plays a large factor. Whomever lives closest to mom or dad is the one able to most regularly check on them and assist when needed, so they often automatically become the primary caregiver. Other factors might be birth order, employment status, the relationship with the parents, and even financial stability.
Traditional gender roles also clearly play a factor here. Although women make up almost half of America’s workforce, they provide the vast majority of elder care support. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, women provide an estimated 66% of elder care in the United States. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, while men may also provide assistance, woman spend 50% more time doing so than men. In my experience working in elder home care, it is often the daughter or daughter in law who is tasked with the responsibility of providing physical support through things like cleaning, shopping, driving to appointments, filling prescriptions, and personal or medical care.
So how do you split the responsibility of caring for your aging parents with your siblings?
1. Don’t rely on traditional gender roles.
Unless they volunteer to take the responsibility, women should not automatically be expected to be the primary elder care providers. Men, if you haven’t already taken a major role in your elderly parents’ care, I implore with you to consider how you can get involved and alleviate some of the pressure from your sisters or other family members. Women, you should also should start preparing for the fact that you are most likely going to face caregiving responsibilities at some point. However, encourage your brothers and your husband to share the burden of caregiving with you so that you can all fulfill your many work and other family responsibilities.
2. Assign elder care responsibilities.
Many families will come up with a way to divide the responsibility according to what makes sense for their situations. For example, the sibling who lives the closest may handle the shopping and doctor’s appointments, while the one that lives further away may use online banking to pay bills and balance the check book, or even spend the time researching reliable senior home care agencies in the loved one’s home town.
3. Jump in and help with in-home care.
If your sibling is taking the brunt of the responsibility caring for your aging parent, asking them how you can help may not be the best way to get involved. Rather, just jump in and help! It can be difficult for a caregiver to take a step back and identify where they need help. Take some initiative and look for ways that you can alleviate some of the burden
4. Bring in professional elder care assistance.
At some point, it may become beneficial to bring in professionals to help. In situations where not all of the care needs of the aging parent can be met by the family, an elder in-home care company may be able to fill the gaps, or share the responsibility with a family member that is overburdened. Aging life care managers can also be a fantastic resource. These managers work with clients to bring the entire family together and become the “coach” or “team captain” for the family as a whole, providing resources and assisting families in making decisions for their loved one’s care.
About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here.