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Family Feud: Sharing the Role of Caregiver with Siblings

Everyone with siblings is familiar with the arguments that happen when someone doesn’t do their fair share of chores. After all, why should one sibling take out the trash, do the dishes, and walk the dog when there are two perfectly able-bodied siblings who can help out?

Unfortunately, these types of childish squabbles don’t disappear when we grow up.

When parents age and need care, it’s easy to fall back into the same patterns. It’s not uncommon for only one sibling to step up to the plate—usually the oldest, geographically closest, or childless sibling—while the others seem oblivious to how much burden has been taken on. At least 61 percent of siblings felt that they didn’t get the support they needed from their brothers or sisters, according to a 2017 Alzheimer Association survey.

Sibling rivalry and conflicts don’t have to hold you back in adulthood. Here are some guidelines on how you and your siblings can work together to care for your aging parents.

Check in with your parents early and often

Coming home at Christmas and realizing mom needs help now and trying to figure out a plan right away, is not how you want to spend your vacation. Despite how often they say they’re “doing just fine,” your parents’ health or behavior may change more quickly than you realize. Arrange with your siblings to do in-person check-ins with your parents on a regular basis to evaluate their physical and mental health.

Luckily in Hawaii, it shouldn’t take any more than an hour and a half to drive over for a visit. If some of your siblings live far away like on the mainland, let them know each time you check-in with your parents so they aren’t oblivious to the time and effort you’re putting in.

Share information about changes you observe

Be alert for behavior and lifestyle changes,” advises Care Manager Kristina Wong. If you notice your loved one withdrawing from regular activities, becoming increasingly forgetful, having a hard time handing daily routines, or just dealing with increased health issues and medications, share that with your siblings and with a medical professional.

Determine strengths and make a checklist for each sibling

Everyone is good at something so assign different siblings different tasks. Each sibling should have an equal voice to express what they’re willing to contribute. For example, even though one sibling lives closest to mom doesn’t mean they are the best suited to check in every day.

Be sure you’re only volunteering for tasks that you won’t take on grudgingly.  Bills, bank statements, and insurance policies can pile up quickly, so this task needs to be handled by someone detail-oriented—if staying organized isn’t your top strength, allow someone else to handle it. If heavy lifting is more your thing, volunteer for housekeeping chores.

Dedicate a person to each of the following tasks and have it in writing. If there are other things your loved one might need, add it to your list.

  • Monitor medication—be the gatekeeper on both prescription and over the counter medications.
  • Transportation—take your loved one to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, or to casual outings.
  • Prepare meals—cook fresh or freezer meals and ensure your loved one is eating an adequate amount.
  • Basic housekeeping—handle mopping, sweeping, and vacuuming of floors, laundry, lawn maintenance, and dusting.
  • Companionship—spend time talking with your loved one, playing cards, or even taking them out for a walk.
  • Paperwork—oversee legalities for bills, insurance, retirement accounts, wills, and bank statements.
  • Basic needs—assist with activities of daily living including bathing, grooming, and toileting.

If someone doesn’t live close by, they can contribute financially to caregiver costs including rent, food, outside care resources, and other expenditures.

Utilize outside resources

Still no help from your siblings? Caregiving is a tough battle to handle all on your own. Consider using outside care resources. Respite care programs, caregiver support programs, and estate planning consultations are all options you should look into.

Home Care by ALTRES Medical specializes in helping elderly people age at home for as long as possible. Contact us today and find out more about our higher level of care.

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