The Role of Siblings in Eldercare By Calm Pond

Did you know that according to a survey by the National Caregivers Association, 76% of family carers say they don’t receive help from other family members. To me that seems sad, but here is an attempt to uncover potential solutions, gleaned from two blog posts I read.
The first one is entitled: ‘Why Caregiving Creates Tension Among Siblings’, by Gary Gilles, and can be found at:

Here are some takeaways for you based on that post:

  • Caregiving can bring out the best and the worst in sibling relationships, strained relations can ensue
  • Siblings can find themselves living out historical ‘roles’ based on previous family patterns
  • One or more siblings can deny the condition of the parent(s), thereby protecting themselves from the painful realization of parent(s) decline.  In time, however, denial can be replaced by acceptance.
  • One possible solution to the sibling -non-involvement challenge is to schedule family meetings or perhaps a conference call. Discuss what your siblings feel that they are most capable or more interested in doing, and also discuss how duties will be divided. One thing that’s important: if you are a primary caregiver, let siblings know their help is wanted and needed and establish a means of communication.  Try to be forgiving of family members who refuse to be involved (I know this part is hard.
  • If sibling involvement does not improve consider moving to the larger community (for example, Coastal Health or private agencies, neighbours, or a support group.) Don’t give up hope. Sibling involvement will gradually come around.  You may even find a friendship growing. Look for opportunities to support, encourage, and work cooperatively with your siblings.

The solutions suggested above came from Part II of this topic, entitled: ‘Working with Siblings: Toward Caregiver Solutions.’

The post can be found at:

The issue of the role of siblings in eldercare is also discussed in one of the vignettes in Bart J. Mindszenthy and Michael Gordon’s book ‘Parenting Your Parents’ (2013). In this vignette, there is an elderly couple: the father is exhibiting some symptoms of dementia and he refuses that his wife, who has painful bone cancer, be given pain medication. The two adult children do not respond in a timely way because both of them have issues with their parents in the past, so have difficulty showing compassion.  In the end they do respond.

As for my situation, communication with siblings is a ‘work-in-progress.’ Things are slowly getting better (as the above post suggests). It takes patience and understanding. I realize my siblings can each contribute in his or her own way, according to their preferences and abilities. Nothing is ever perfect, but what is perfect these days? Sometimes you just have to accept a less-than-perfect situation. But good luck to you all the same, you are caring and kind-hearted unsung heroes, and I pray you get the help/support you need.

Calm Pond

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