If you share caregiving responsibilities with siblings, these tips can help
by Barry J. Jacobs, AARP
Beware that caregiving disagreements don’t create resentments that cause long-term relationship damage.
My brother and I, normally close, have had a strained relationship for the past 18 months. The cause is sad but common: We don’t agree on the roles each of us should play in caring for our aging mother.
As the older (and, in my mind, wiser) brother, I took the lead in moving our mother from Florida to an apartment near my Pennsylvania home. I think I know what’s best for her — and what my brother and I should each provide her. He lives 350 miles away and has a different take on her well-being: He doesn’t think she needs as much help as I do, so he’s less willing to make the sacrifices I think he should.
Like many adult siblings in caregiving situations, our disagreement has taken on the cast of old childhood dynamics.
In his mind, I’m still playing the bullying older brother who has always tried to dictate to him. In my mind, he’s still the stubborn younger brother who won’t live up to his family responsibilities.
Pulling together to care for Mom or Dad makes some adult siblings as close as comrades-in-arms.
In my clinical experience, however, many sibling disagreements over what needs to be done (and who should do it) create resentments that frequently simmer, occasionally explode and invariably cause long-term damage. If you’re sharing a caregiving role with one or more siblings, these tips may help:
Remember that the stakes are high
When siblings coordinate efforts to care for parents, the parents receive better overall care. Conversely, you can’t be an effective advocate with health care and social services professionals if you’re too busy taking swipes at a brother or sister. Indeed, sibling squabbles can compound the suffering of the loved ones they are ostensibly trying to help.