The responsibility for the care needed for aging parents is usually forged somewhat on the history shared by the siblings in their past relationships. If they have been close in their younger days, they tend to share tasks equally. In some cases, the opposite develops with the stress of the situation creating an emotional distance. This development may cause the resurgence of an old but familiar pattern of discord and conflict.
The most common conflict when it comes to caregiving is the fairness of the tasks needed for the caregiving. One sibling may feel they have an unfair amount of responsibility and burden. To make this conflict more complex and difficult, there can also be a difference in opinion of what care the family member needs. One example of a major conflict amongst siblings is when to make the life-changing decision of putting a parent into a nursing home. When is the right time?
Siblings donate their time for caregiving in different proportions and play different roles:
- Routine – this is when an adult child provides some type of care on a daily care.
- Backup – This is a sibling who can be counted on for special emotional support or assist occasionally in the routine care needed.
- Limited Assistance. This often happens when a male sibling leaves most of the physical care giving to a female sibling al thought they may find their own way to help – such as picking up financial responsibilities needed now for the parent being cared for.
- Sporadic. A sibling that provides help when it’s convenient or possible. Such as a sibling that lives out of state and can realistically only provide help during a visit.
- Dissociation. At times, there may such a deep seated serious issue between the adult child and the parent that they may refuse to participate in any type of care.
Gender plays a big part in the roles taken on by siblings. Sisters are more likely to be the primary and routine caregiver who is the key to success. Brothers tend to be limited and sporadic in their donation to the caregiving responsibilities. When there are no female siblings, research shows that sons appear to cooperate to meet the parent’s need for care.
Different factors also contribute to the sharing of responsibilities. Unfortunately, the children living closest to the situation are going to be burdened with the most responsibilities. Occupations may be a factor with any sibling that has more free time from their jobs or who doesn’t hold a job, logically being given more responsibility than others. It makes sense for these siblings to be the designated person to get the parent to Doctor’s appointments, take them shopping, and do other tasks and errands needed.
Under the stress of caring for a parent, these years can also be a good time for siblings to build a stronger and closer relationship, looking back on family memories with nostalgia. Sibling relationships can enrich our senior years.
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