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Blended Families: Talk Through Aging Issues


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July 31, 2014

That Brady Bunch – they seemed to have it all: family harmony and the desire to care for one another. But we never saw the Brady clan grow older, did we? Blended families can face a variety of unique challenges when it comes to aging and caring for one another.

There are plenty of families that could be facing challenging times as their loved ones age.

An estimated 25% of American men and women report being married at least two times by age 50, according to the National Stepfamily Resource Center. About 42% of adults have at least one step relative, with 30% indicating they have a step- or half-sibling, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

In Canada, about 12.6% of families were considered stepfamilies, according to Statistics Canada.

A majority of senior care professionals interviewed by the Home Instead Senior Care® network say that factors such as having a blended family make disputes over aging or end-of-life issues more likely. It can also muddy the waters when it comes to who provides care to aging loved ones. So who does?

“That’s a huge question, and one that’s difficult to answer,” said communication expert Dr. Jake Harwood of the University of Arizona. “It probably depends a lot on the family history,” he pointed out.

If a stepparent was present in the stepchildren’s lives when they were young, stepchildren might be equally likely to step in as the stepparent’s biological children to care for the stepparent, Harwood noted. But a stepparent who has arrived on the scene after the stepchildren have left home is not as likely to get the same treatment; in those circumstances, the stepparent’s biological children may likely have to take the initiative.

“Whoever is geographically closer is going to bear the burden,” Harwood said. “But communication matters: the more all children (biological and stepchildren) can communicate about what is going on, what needs to be done, and who is going to do it, the better.”

For help with aging issues, complete the 40-70 Rule®: An Action Plan for Successful AgingSM (US or Canada) . The plan addresses special circumstances, such as blended families, and how to deal with aging issues in a variety of areas including:

Living Choices

Consider what other family members may want and how a living situation could impact them. Plan a family meeting to discuss the situation.

Financial Choices

Consider obtaining independent financial counsel for each family member.

Download the Financial Choices Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.


Try scheduling a family meeting or family conference call to talk about any health issues of concern with the family. Make sure you know what you want to achieve at the end of the meeting.

Download the Health Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

Relationships and Dating

You may need the help of a counselor or financial planner to work through sensitive relationship issues surrounding blended families, including money or inheritance.

Download the Relationships and Dating Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.


If you are concerned about someone in the family driving, try to schedule a meeting or conference call to address the issue. If you can’t reach a consensus, ask a third party professional or member of the clergy to step in and mediate.

Download the Driving Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

End of life

If families cannot agree, consider a mutually acceptable third party mediator to help you resolve issues.

Download the End of Life Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

The plan (US or Canada) will help families ACT (Assess, Consider and Talk) about their best options.

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