According to a study conducted by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College; “Over the course of their lives, about 17 percent of adults end up providing care for their parents. And when children do care for parents, the commitment is large – 77 hours per month.”
The study goes on to note that most of the caring falls on the adult children who live closer to their aging parents or are female. Carrying the burden of the stress of caring for an adult parent when other siblings aren’t helping in the same capacity causes resentment and caregiver burnout. Siblings may disagree on the best care for their parent, and cause tension and stress. Especially if their parent is suffering from dementia, and cannot make cognitive decisions for themselves.
1- Talk about it early! The perfect time to start the conversation is when your aging parents are still independent. Bring it up – what is their long-term care plan? If they don’t have one, talk about resources, needs, and wants. You may not be able to check all the boxes on everyone’s wishlist, but a conversation about what is important is important.
2- It’s never too late – Is your loved one in need of care now? That’s okay. Often families who don’t have a plan will have to react if there is a medical condition or need that prevents them from being independent. It’s okay to react in the moment, especially if there is an emergency situation that could be dangerous- like a fall. But siblings need to realize what is good for a short time, may not be good for a long time. Regroup with your family and come up with a plan that works for all. Consider short-term situations like rehab or hospital stays, near-term situations, and long-term care needed.
3- Ask for help – If your cup is overfull, ask for help! Caregiver burnout is real and something we see daily. You are no good if your burnout. Ask your sibling for help.
4- Consider location – Often the sibling who lives closest to the elderly parent carries the burnt of the burden of caregiving. Consider this when arranging plans, and making the necessary arrangements for different scenarios. Emergencies may fall on the closest sibling, but things that can be planned for – like a vacation for the closest sibling, or a doctor’s appointment can be divided and planned for.
5- Everything is a phase – Much like caring for a toddler when caring for an elderly parent remember everything is just a phase. Situations can flip overnight, so it is important to be open with your family and talk about it. Also, if you are feeling burnout or uncomfortable with a current situation, remember that it is only temporary.
Sibling relationships can be complex even in smooth seas, so added complexity can be just that – complex. Remember to practice grace with yourself and your loved ones and keep an open line of communication. You’re on the same team!