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4 Mistakes Siblings Make When Trying to Support Aging Parents

November 22, 2022

The holidays are here. You know what that means, food, family, and friends all gather together. It can be really great and also really intense. Let’s face it family dynamics are complex and can be more so if your parents are aging or sick. Journalist and author of They’re Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy (Bantam, 2010), Francine Russo brings light to some of the mistakes adult siblings make when caring for aging parents. There are 4 mistakes she points out that we see often, and have highlighted them below. We explained our personal experiences with things mistakes and we hope this helps you have a different perspective on sibling dynamics. 

1- Thinking if one sibling is taking the lead on the parent care, you are off the hook.

In families, there is often one sibling that is the “main caregiver,” or perhaps even an appointed POA (Power of Attorney), however, this does not mean the other siblings are off the hook. Caregiver burnout is a real thing, and something we see every day, if you are not the main caregiver, offer to help your sibling out in other ways… can you help drive your parents to doctor appointments? Can you cook a few meals and freeze them? Can you surprise your sibling with a spa day or a day of respite? It is a family’s job together to take care of aging parents. 

2- If you are the main caregiver, and you think you shouldn’t need to ask for help. 

If you are your parents’ main caregiver, don’t expect your siblings to volunteer with the help you need. Ask for what you need. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be direct. Oftentimes, we see people take the lead on care, but then resent their other siblings for not stepping in. Then we will have conversations with the other siblings as to why they aren’t helping, and it is as simple as, “well, I didn’t know how without getting in the way.” Give your sibling the opportunity to help, and ask for it. 

3- Assuming our siblings are the same people they were as kids.

Falling into familiar family dynamics is easy and comfortable, despite your age. Just because one sibling was “the know it all” as a kid doesn’t mean they “know it all now.” Listen to each other, actually hear each other and plan for your parent’s aging together. 

4- Not planning for the tough realities ahead. 

We see this daily and it breaks our hearts. Families are often in an emergency situation before they have discussions about care and what their aging parents want. We know it is so much easier said than done but talk about end-of-life care with your family. We know it is hard to discuss, but call a family meeting when your parents are still healthy. It is never too early to start the conversation, and as uncomfortable as it may seem at the time it will be so helpful in case of an emergency. 

When we help families navigate senior care for their loved ones, we often help families navigate through their own interpersonal dynamics. We have learned a lot and are driven by empathy, advocacy, compassion, and understanding. If you or your family need support finding senior care or even just starting the conversation about end-of-life care, please reach out. Click here to learn more. 


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