How to Coordinate Care for an Aging Parent With Your Siblings

Sons Gathered with Father

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village,” with regard to raising children. Similarly, it could be said that “it takes a family” to care for an aging parent.

“As an adult child, having siblings can be a blessing when it comes to caring for a parent who needs ongoing care,” says Susan Irrgang, RN, LNHA, Executive Director at Saunders House in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. 

“Often, providing continuous care for an aging parent can be too great a burden for one person alone. Having siblings to help share the care responsibilities can make the situation more manageable for everyone.

“However, it can also be a challenge to coordinate an aging parent’s care with other siblings.  Some siblings might live a distance away, while other siblings might be less willing to help. Fortunately, there are some useful steps you can take to organize your siblings and create a more equitable ‘division of labor’ for your loved one’s care.”

Tips for Coordinating Care with Your Siblings 

You can find helpful ideas for engaging your siblings in several places. For example, the articles “Create Your Caregiving Team,” “Getting Along to Care for Mom” and “How to Work with Siblings to Take Care of an Aging Parent” offer some useful advice.

Some of the key suggestions include:

  1. Be considerate of other siblings’ situations and opinions in creating a plan – Caring for an aging parent can be stressful and not everyone will react in the same way or have the same opinion on how to approach the situation. There can be disagreements about care decisions or a sibling who lives a distance away might be resented by others.

    Group caregiving decisions can be complex, and they require mutual respect. Discussions work best when everyone has an equal opportunity to provide input. The ultimate goal should be to have everyone participate in some meaningful way to provide the aging parent with quality care.
  1. Create a list of care tasks that include all siblings’ participation – Discuss your parent’s specific care needs, and then work to identify each sibling’s role and responsibility in helping to meet them. Create a schedule of tasks or responsibilities that recognize the amount of time, effort and money required for each item and organize task assignments based on each sibling’s abilities, preferences and availability.

    The important thing is to have every sibling contribute in some useful way. As an example, a sibling who lives a long distance away could pay for respite care to provide some needed time off for the sibling providing the majority of the parent’s care. Once you have all agreed to specific responsibilities, commit them to writing for all to see, so there is no confusion or disagreements going forward.
  1. Use technologies for communications and coordination with siblings – Take advantage of the many helpful types of technology available today. For example, you can create a family Facebook page, utilize group emails or use conference calls to keep everyone informed and up to date on things, including how your care plan is working and how it can be improved.

    Care coordination websites are also available that can assist you with organizing care, calendar scheduling and sharing information. These “online communities” provide siblings with secure access to information, advice and discussion. Examples include Lotsa Helping Hands, CareCalendar and CaringBridge.

  2. Talk with your siblings on a regular basis – Experts in family care planning stress the importance of regular communications to maximize the effectiveness of shared caring for a parent. Plan on having recurring meetings or conference calls to keep everyone up to date as well as to evaluate how your care plan is working and what adjustments should be made.

  3. Utilize available community resources – Community resources can also be beneficial in caring for an aging parent. Examples of their services include delivering meals, providing transportation, making regular check-in phone calls and helping around the house.

    You can contact your local government, Office of Aging or churches and synagogues to find out what services are available in your area. Also, the U.S. Administration on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association® websites can help identify services in your community.

  4. Discuss financial and legal matters with siblings well ahead of time – Aging care experts strongly recommend discussing financial and legal matters early so you are not placed in an uncomfortable situation should an emergency occur. Having agreement on such issues – including future care options – and having your parent’s input can save you from considerable stress later on. They suggest utilizing the following professionals:
    • An Elder Law Attorney – Certified Elder Law specialists can help organize pertinent legal documents for your aging parent such as medical Power of Attorney and financial Power of Attorney in an objective, unbiased manner. They can also educate your care team on key considerations, such as estate planning and Medicare benefits
    • A Financial Planner – If your parent should need additional levels of care in the future such as short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care or memory care,  a licensed financial planner can help you identify the financial resources and options to assure your loved one receives the care they need.
  1. Seek outside mediation help for sibling conflicts if needed –Sometimesserious disagreements can occur among siblings when discussing a parent’s care that are difficult to solve from within the family. If this occurs, it can be advisable to seek the assistance of a trusted third party.

Mediation could be in the form of a respected religious leader in your community, a judge or a certified mediator. Independent third parties such as these have the advantage of objectivity and can be helpful in breaking deadlocks and gaining agreement among siblings who disagree.

Susan adds, “By following these helpful tips for coordinating an aging parent’s care, siblings have the best chance of creating an effective care plan that has everyone’s support and results in quality care for their loved one.”

We invite you to stay current on other senior health and senior care topics by viewing the latest articles on our website. 

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If you have comments or questions about our blog on “How to Coordinate Care for an Aging Parent With Your Siblings,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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