How to Avoid Sibling Caregiver Conflict


In November, we celebrate National Home Care and Family Caregivers Month, two observances that are core to FirstLight Home Care. Throughout the month, our FirstLight blog will focus on providing the tools, tips, resources and peace of mind so many family caregivers need. We invite you to comment and share the challenges and rewarding experiences you’ve encountered throughout your caregiving journey. 

How to Avoid Sibling Caregiver Conflict
If not kept in check, sibling caregiver conflict can damage family relationships

When it comes to caring for the needs of an aging parent, it can be helpful to share caregiving responsibilities with your siblings. However, brothers and sisters often disagree on many of the common decisions that are involved in a loved one’s care. These can include anything related to money, family possessions, healthcare decisions and your parent’s living arrangements.Avoid sibling caregiver conflict

These disagreements tend to not only upset your loved one, but they also can cause sibling conflict and damage relationships. There are ways to help avoid sibling caregiver conflict. Read below for tips and advice, and remember – always let your loved one’s health, comfort, safety and quality of life be your guide.

Common sources of sibling caregiver conflict

Disagreements can arise about many things when it comes to caregiving:

  • Money. Disputes over finances are one of the biggest sibling caregiver conflicts that occur when caring for a parent, including how money should be spent, which sibling pays for what, who manages the finances if your parent is no longer able and inheritance.
  • Freedom and safety. What if it’s time to approach Mom or Dad about giving up the car keys? Who will do that if necessary? Who will ensure that the home is safe if your parent is living alone?
  • Living arrangements. There can be a difference of opinion when it comes to where Mom or Dad should live. Are they able to remain in their home own with some assistance? Would an assisted living community make more sense? Or do they need the skilled care of a nursing home?
  • Caregiving decisions. Perhaps you need to hire a professional caregiver. If so, who manages the hiring of that person? Who will provide meals or make sure your parent keeps their doctor appointments? What about a system to ensure your loved one is taking his or her medication?
  • Medical decisions. Determining which sibling should make those often-complex decisions about treatment and end of life care can be challenging, especially when you are not on the same page about the best course of action.
  • Parent possessions. Discussions over who gets what personal possessions when a parent downsizes or moves – or even after a death – frequently arise and can cause major battles between siblings.
Here is what you can focus on to help avoid conflict:

Involve your parent in the decision-making. Ask your parent what they want and be willing to compromise if necessary. There may be more than one solution to your parent’s day-to-day care needs -that will also meet the needs of your siblings – while keeping your parent healthy, safe and happy.

Divide and conquer. Try to split caregiving tasks based on your siblings’ strengths, as well as their schedule and availability, and then create a care plan. There may be one sibling who works full time and only has availability during the evening hours. Perhaps one has more flexibility during the day and can help with cooking and cleaning. Sharing the duties also ensures that no one person is carrying the entire load.

Talk to each other. Open communication is key. Discuss each family member’s role and responsibilities in the caregiving process upfront, and continue to keep everyone updated on what is happening with your parent. Check in regularly and listen to each other, especially if someone is feeling alone, exhausted or frustrated. Be empathetic to your siblings’ circumstances. You are all in this together! 

Consider bringing in outside help. Caregiving is sometimes harder than it seems. And it can put a strain on family relationships – with both your parent and your siblings. Even if you think you can manage it all, sometimes the best solution is to hire a caregiver that can relieve some of the burden and allow you to be son or daughter, brother or sister.

Whether it is illness, injury, dementia or just challenges that come with old age, FirstLight can help you or your loved one. Our caregivers take on the tasks that can seem overwhelming, but we also understand that what you want most for your loved one is help, hope, comfort, companionship and compassion. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our Senior Care Services.

Read more about sharing caregiving tasks with your siblings in this article from The Caregiver Space. And tell us about some of the sibling conflicts you’ve experiences as a family caregiver.

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