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Communication Key to Sharing Caregiving Duties

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Caring for aging parents can lead to awkward situations that are difficult for siblings to discuss. Open communication is the key to ensuring that older adults get the help they need and that one family member doesn't become burned out doing all the work.

Q. I'm a working mom whose 85-year-old father depends on my care. My brothers and a sister all live out of town so there is no one to pitch in to help me. I'm exhausted and becoming angry toward my siblings. How can I get them to understand my point of view?

The care of senior loved ones can create plenty of awkward situations for families. That's why ongoing communication is vital to keeping family relationships positive and to maintaining your health.

First and foremost, you must take action before you begin to resent your siblings. Keep your brothers and sisters informed about how your father is doing, appreciating that they will form their own opinions about him, based on their relationship and contact with him.

Here's an example of how you could handle the situation, from the Home Instead® network's 50-50 Rule® program, found at

If you have specific needs, let your siblings know what they are. Are you in the market for time away? If so, respite care might be the ticket. Perhaps you could arrange a schedule so your brothers and sisters can visit your father and you can take a break.

Why not present the idea to a sibling who you think would be the most understanding and receptive to helping. "You know, sis, I love taking care of Dad and am so appreciative of the support of the family, but sometimes it gets to be too much. What do you think about developing a plan to coordinate your visits with weekends where I could use extra help or take time away myself?"

If your father's needs start to translate into expenses, let your siblings know and indicate whether you are requesting financial support from them or letting them know that your father's money is being spent to meet these needs. No surprises later on will keep sibling relationships conflict-free. If your father says he will repay your efforts through family inheritance, suggest that he let your siblings know as well. If he doesn't, you might consider mentioning it so there are no surprises down the road.

If you find you still need additional help, consider hiring someone to assist you. You can hire a CAREGiverSM from Home Instead for as few as three hours a week and up to 24 hours a day, every day, to assist your mom with various non-medical tasks.

For more information and resources about working with siblings visit

Last revised: March 11, 2010

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