COVID-19 Alert: Manage caregiver stress during this health crisis. Learn More.
Call 888-575-0946 for Home Instead services in your area.
Sharing is Caring:

Family Won't Help with Mom? 6 Strategies to Reduce the Drama

Find home care near you or your loved one:

Chances are you spend a good deal of your life planning for the future. You plan your career path. You plan for retirement. But you may never have planned on becoming a family caregiver.

If you’re like many children of senior parents, you became a caregiver in small increments, over the course of time. Maybe it began by providing transportation after Dad gave up the car keys or by making phone calls to the insurance company to straighten out a health claim. As time went on, those favors likely became more frequent and you found yourself providing more and more care until you realized you were spending a significant portion of your free time taking care of Mom and Dad—perhaps much more time than your siblings spent pitching in.

Few people become family caregivers by sitting down with the whole family and creating a plan that covers the who, what, when, where and how of caregiving.

Unfortunately, this lack of planning can lead to family drama and sibling resentment. In discussions within the Caregiver Stress Facebook community, caregivers frequently express frustration over their inability to get other family members to help with Mom or Dad’s care. They often say they feel they became the primary caregiver by default and now shoulder the burden alone.

If you count yourself in that group—or if you want to avoid the sibling squabbles that can arise over family caregiving—take heart. It is possible, to a certain extent, to begin the caregiving conversation over again. These six tips can help you step back from any existing family drama over caregiving and create a plan to help you all move forward in harmony.

1. Start planning well in advance, if possible

It is never too late (or too early) to start the conversation. Even if you are well into the caregiving journey, you can access planning aids to help you move forward with more help from your siblings.

The 50/50 Rule® program, developed by Home Instead®, offers resources for developing senior care plans that involve all of the aging family member’s children. Try to have your first conversations on this subject when the eldest sibling turns 40 years old, and continue to talk about how to share the caregiving before your parent even needs it. This way, no one sibling will “back in to” the caregiving role without the support of other family members.

2. Look at the big picture

For some families, the caregiving conversation begins with details: “I can’t possibly help take care of Mom because all of my kids are enrolled in extracurricular activities,” or “I live five hours away, and I’m not sacrificing my vacation time to fly in and take care of Dad.”

Instead of starting the caregiving conversation by diving into the details of everyone’s life, try taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. What types of support does your loved one need right now? What types of care will he or she require in the future? Once you have identified your loved one’s needs, then you can begin a conversation that gets into the details of which sibling can provide which types of support.

3. Take the emotions out of the conversation as much as possible

Siblings share an intimate personal history that sometimes includes baggage: hard feelings, old hurts. Try to set these emotions aside and deal matter-of-factly with your parent’s needs in the moment—and going forward. Keep the focus on achieving goals, not on your family dynamics. When you approach the topic of shared caregiving from a perspective of “here’s what Mom and Dad need, now how can we all provide it?”, the conversation may go more smoothly.

If you find it impossible to have these conversations without tempers flaring, consider hiring a mediator. These professionals can help bring everyone to a resolution without the hurt feelings that may accompany a do-it-yourself approach.

4. Match caregiving tasks with each person’s talents and abilities

Your older brother may balk at helping with caregiving if he is expected to bathe and toilet your mother. Your petite younger sister may not be willing to wrestle Dad’s walker into the car in order to drive him to appointments. Instead of insisting each sibling provide the same types of care, try to match tasks with each person’s abilities and interests. Perhaps your sister who lives far away would be willing to pay Mom’s bills and deal with other financial issues. Or maybe your brother who lives nearby would be happy to take Dad to his doctor appointments. There are many ways to divvy up the caregiving pie.

5. Accept that one person may always provide a disproportionate amount of care

You can’t force your siblings to help. That’s a simple truth. And even when you do get family members to commit to help with caregiving, you still may find you provide a disproportionate amount of that care. Try to come to terms with the fact that this is normal in most family caregiving situations. Acceptance may be easier in the long run than constantly feeling resentful.

If you feel undervalued for the amount of care you provide, try investigating ways to get paid for family caregiving. According to AARP, there are a number of methods that allow your parent to compensate you for the help you provide, including direct payment and tapping a long-term care insurance policy. Even if your loved one can’t afford to pay you much, sometimes receiving a token payment can help you feel valued.

6. Take care of your own emotional needs

High stress, isolation and depression are real dangers of caregiving, especially if you add in family conflict over caregiving issues. Although it can be hard to find time for self-care, be sure to make your own needs a priority. Even five minutes alone in the fresh air, or half an hour with a good book, can help you feel refreshed and recharged. If possible, hire a professional caregiver occasionally so you can get some time to focus on yourself.

How have you “shared the care” with your family members? Leave a comment below!

Last revised: January 5, 2016

Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.

Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 3, 2020 at 12:15 pm | Posted by Cathy

    Very difficult watching my parents go through this hard time . They’ve been married 67 yrs & now mom has dementia & dad is doing his best to take care of here. His health isn’t the best either. I was able to assist with getting her on Medicaid & in home care...which benefits dad more. The sad thing is the other 3 siblings have decided that they don’t want to step in and help because they don’t like the way my dad does things... IN HIS OWN HOME!! It’s a long story, but from what I’ve read here, not an unfamiliar one. I live the farthest away and 1 sibling actually lives in the same town as parents and refuses to go help or even call to check on them. Yes, we had some family dysfunction growing up but parents have changed, asked forgiveness and for the last 8 years we’ve actually pulled together as a family. But since mom got sick & they started needing more help it’s all gone back to resentment & accusations. All of a sudden there’s lots of “reasons “ they can’t or won’t help out. I will continue to do my best to help my parents & treat them with dignity at this difficult time in their lives. Jesus says to honor our parents ... I don’t see where He adds.... “if they deserve it”, or “ if they were good”. It just breaks my heart that they have to be cared for by strangers for the most part, but I am thankful for Home Instead & Hospice. Thank you & God Bless


  2. July 15, 2020 at 9:14 am | Posted by Mary Stewart

    I feel like I've been a caregiver all my life. At 11 years old, I stayed at the hospital with Mom to assist her when she needed help. Hurry through the next 50+ years and I've taken care of my father in law, my mother in law, my Dad and Mom and am now caring for my brother... In one of the suggestions above, someone suggested contacting Catholic Charities for help in arranging his finances which I plan to do later today. It is the one resource that I've not utilized. I absolutely am totally dependant on God to supply the resources needed and so far he hasn't let me down, although I've been far less than the perfect care-giver. My siblings and my husbands siblings were all involved to a point, even one long distance sister was always there to talk to Mom on t, they fight like two year old siblingshe phone and make her laugh when she was having a hard day. Mom has only been gone two years, and less than three months after she passed my brother started having strokes. No rest for the wicked they say:-). His son barely even calls him and when they are together, they fight like two year old siblings. I'm not quite sure how to handle this one; but am certainly NOT giving the forty-something power of attorney for his father that he cares not for. I am continuing to pray that they make amends and come to a peaceful closure before my brother passes.


    • October 23, 2020 at 12:47 am | Posted by Day Monay

      Very sweet of you to take care of your entire Family, but you have a Life. Who's going to take care of you, if you were to get ill. I'm sorry, but if I were you, I would consider hiring nursing in the home, or a Nursing Home, for all sick Family members. Then I would run away for a while to Discover who I am and live my Life. I'm trying to do this, right now, at 50. All my siblings who are younger than me are ill with heart condition and edema. Before they got ill, they all had their own place, and traveled, and had a life, except for me. I stayed next door to my mother, to raise my only child and helped her, and watched everyone leave. This was 23 yrs ago. Now since my child is grown and doing well for himself, I can have my Life now. I help out with my siblings but I will not allow them to Stop my Life. So I realized, only God can help them. We live in dark times now, not knowing what can happened tommorow. You and I deserve our own Better Lifes, and im going after mines.


  3. June 21, 2020 at 11:24 am | Posted by Zoey

    Hi, My mother is 92 years old she has Dementia and breast cancer..she lived in NY with my brother, but when he passed away 6 years ago she had to moved in with me.. I live 700 miles away from NY. I have a brother that move to the state where i reside and he doesn't even volunteer to help me take her for her cancer treatment. I am a widow. When it was her 90th birthday i bought her a birthday cake and balloons.. two months later he stopped by the house and said oh it was mom's birthday ..his response was what does she knows about balloons and cake..I am so fed up with him and his narcissistic wife. I told my sons that when mom dies i will not let them know.. I feel if they didn't care when she was alive what different does it makes once she's gone.


    • July 14, 2020 at 6:11 pm | Posted by RANDY READING

      Often looking back, siblings and relatives attitude and relationship with the elderly were not that good or close before they needed help, and it is less logical that they'll show up when they need help. Try and come to peace with that and it will be easier to let them know when your mom passes; which is probably the right thing to do . I took my mom in because her life was always about caring about others, and I owed her for how that blessed me. I remind myself it's the best thing I could be doing with my life as I know she appreciates it.. She has Alzheimer's and I'm not sure at what point I'll need to let go and put her in God's hands, but it's been an honor.


  4. April 27, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Posted by Alix Counter

    magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don't notice this. You should continue your writing. I'm confident, you've a great readers' base already!


  5. April 24, 2020 at 10:58 am | Posted by teresa Whipple

    I am caring for my father who is 87 and in a wheelchair ,because of an amputated leg.. I take care of him and all doctor appointments , housework,laundry,bill paying,meals,ECT... I had to leave my home and move in with him.I have only one sister and she lives next door.She never helps me with anything or ever offers to give me a break. I hate confrontation so I don't say anything to her. I have had to see a therapist , which is helping but I am still stressed and have no life of my own he takes care 24/7.can she not see what's happening or is she just that selfish? Help if you have any suggestions and please send prayers my way ?


    • May 27, 2020 at 6:01 am | Posted by Jan D.

      Teresa, so sorry you are enduring all the burden. I too did all the work for my parents, their post trust administration also. Then when I came up for air with my tiny straw then my 89 year old mother-in-law suddenly became much more dependent and it started all over again. I've lost numerous relationships between the stress, lack of time, frustration, etc. of family members totally ignoring requests for help. They don't even answer calls for help, even in covid 19 to bring food for our now 93 year old mother. So sad the neglect by family members for their own mother and brother, sister-in-law and children! On top of it all my mother-in-laws home has a ton of deferred maintenance. Very stressful! I've lost some of my health also. My encourage my husband to be more direct with his sibling about this whole thing. He doesn't like the conflict. Sheesh! You are not alone. Know that you are doing the work of an angel and when they pass you can live with yourself knowing you did your part. My next step is encouraging we get professional help a few days a week to help my mother-in-law and to get paid for the the portion of the eldercare we do that really belongs to other family members. Stay strong! I'm praying for you.


  6. December 20, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Posted by River

    We have a slightly different situation. Mother was in another state, and after a hospitalization we moved her into an ALF with her hubby. After a year and a half of supporting her at a distance (financial, visits, companion care, etc.) and two hospitalizations decided to move her out closer. Her care and extras were supplemented by myself only my two brothers were AWOL. Both are doing fine with good incomes, and my older brother especially lives a lavish life despite an income that is considered middle class. Before moving her out here, it was agreed that they each would start contributing a small amount financially. I/husband continued to contribute far more to her care. At around the same time this support from them was supposed to start, was when I went out and got her ready to move out here, as it was obvious that while she still had a lot left in her, she needed a better supported environment and to be closer for me to keep an eye on her. The amount my brothers were to contribute were around 20% of what myself and husband were contributing, despite the higher costs of her care I didn't feel it was fair to change what was agreed to. However, my older brother in particular has failed to uphold his end. My younger brother was contributing until recently, and both went silent. I am quite honestly disgusted. If they were both living hard lives of struggling, it'd be different, but they are not. Wine clubs, lunches out every day, expensive meals, road trips all over, etc. describes my older brother. He's not changed one bit despite it being a horrible way to live a life. I find it just unbelievable that they even seemed mildly annoyed that we would ask they contribute anything after a year and a half of being silent. Honestly, I've had enough of feeling like a sucker. Our mom deserves better. After months of forgiving and just monthly reminders that we have paid her memory care bill, I've decided for my own sanity and peace to cut off contact. This may sound harsh, but it's what I needed to do. Their emails, texts and phone calls have been set up to be rejected. I'm done. And honestly, it feels good.


    • January 26, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Posted by Mary

      I know the feeling


      • July 6, 2020 at 1:53 am | Posted by che

        I'm in the same boat as all of you here. The truth is: the siblings who don't care or bother with anything are horrible people. Thank God for you and the caregivers like you and me. Thank you for taking care of people when nobody else will.


  7. October 31, 2019 at 5:35 pm | Posted by Jolynn

    Becky, After reading your comments, may I offer a few suggestions? First, I would suggest speaking to a local elder-law attorney or Catholic Charities as a starting point. Medicaid is run by each individual state, so rules vary from state to state. It is my understanding that, in general, Medicaid does not want to see couples divorce (as someone else commented) or become impoverished in order that one spouse can receive benefits. There are however, stringent guidelines about current assets and asset disposal prior to applying for Medicaid (going back up to five years prior to the application), etc, so you really need advice from someone that is familiar with the guidelines in your own state. I believe that Catholic Charities offers services to assist people (regardless of religious beliefs) with the application process, free of charge. This would be at least a good place to start without spending money and/or feeling pressured by an attorney. Please DO NOT spend your own money (your husbands 401K or any other funds) in order to assist with your father's medical bills or care. I understand your need and desire to help your dad, but in reality, HE AND HIS WIFE (your step-mother) are the ones responsible for those expenses. Your step-mom is morally, if not legally, obliged to do so. Your step-mom's primary obligation is to provide for herself and her spouse (your father), and that is what their savings is for (regardless if that is in the form of stocks, real estate, cash, insurance, other property, etc). Obviously I don't know the particulars of their situation, but the reason that people work, save, and insure is to provide for their own financial support. IF, at the end of their lives money remains, it should be considered a blessing and a gift if passed on to their children. Your step-mom should not expect you or any of the children to bear that burden while you/they are trying to support themselves and prepare for their own unknown futures. Best of luck!


  8. October 31, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Posted by Jolynn

    Barb, Hang in there! I have a similar situation- my mother-in-law has lived in our home for just over 2.5 years due to her having dementia. For years prior to that, my husband and I helped her out more than any of her 3 other children put together, so it should come as no surprise. I understand the frustration- I have it too. You don't mention his age, or whether there are any medical issues that he is experiencing, which can make a difference in options for you. A couple of suggestions: #1- look at programs for seniors in your area (day trips or senior center activities, adult day care, respite care, etc.) which may provide the relief of getting him out of the house (at least temporarily). Use these programs and services as much as you can. Adult day care has been an absolute life saver in our circumstance. Transportation is sometimes offered to and from these activities, check into availability for that (perhaps they can pick him up and drop him off as well). If not, perhaps use Uber or Lyft or a taxi to get him around, as long as he is safe using such. #2- If he is able to live on his own, perhaps look into a senior living community or assisted living, if needed. Make a plan with a timeline to successfully transition him to another location. #3- Hire a professional caregiver to come into the home to give you a break and help with such things as housekeeping, meal preparation, companionship, etc. Depending on his financial circumstances, some of these services can be provided (once approved) via Medicaid, Medicare or insurance- or perhaps he will just need to pay out of pocket for them. It is not only an investment for his interest, but yours as well. It's not easy to get all the info about what is available in your area and how to best pay for it- perhaps your local government (city or county) has a resource office to begin helping you with the journey. You must educate yourself in order to find the relief you need. Use the internet, make phone calls, ask questions. Suggestion #4- find a caregivers support group and start attending. People there can be an invaluable resource for information for some of these types of things. To find one- again, use the internet, make phone calls (to senior centers, doctors, Alzheimer's Association, Easter Seals for respite care, etc.) Depending on how his siblings are, perhaps you can ask them for help in getting info in order that you do not have to do all the legwork yourself. You and your husband need to make your own marriage and your own lives a priority, also. Actually, it needs to be your first priority. You must care for yourself first or you cannot care for someone else. I am still struggling with how to deal with my husbands siblings, who seem to want nothing to do with their mother or her care, and show no signs of concern for her or for our well-being either. Best of luck to you!


  9. September 23, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Posted by Barb Prokop

    Okay, my father in law lives with us, it has been two years since his wife had passed away, so we took him in, which we said temporary, he has 6 kids and I have reached out to them if they could take him for a little while, I feel like I have no home any more, me and my husband have no time together in our home. I am to the point where I am angry and sad. I told my husband I am not happy I feel like our marriage is not in a good place anymore. I need some suggestions please.


    • November 19, 2019 at 7:46 am | Posted by Andrea

      Hello, I am starting to believe that unless one has a good support system in place (with siblings involved), its usually not feasible to have one person do it all. There are more claims of elder abuse from in-home care than out of home care. Do not fear assisted living. It can save you and your marriage. My Mom is in AL and is very happy. The thing you can do is visit. The stronger you are, the more you can actually be there for them. Siblings not there for you (mine are not), then find people who have devoted their lives to helping others (people you WISH were your siblings but are not). A nice Christian place is a bonus, I think, in a rural area near you.


    • April 26, 2020 at 11:17 am | Posted by Teresa

      I to share many of the emotions you are going through. All I know is that some how we will make it through. Hopefully be stronger .prayers. to you and family .after every storm there is a rainbow!?️?


  10. September 23, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Posted by Barb

    Okay, my father in law lives with us, it has been two years since his wife had passed away, so we took him in, which we said temporary, he has 6 kids and I have reached out to them if they could take him for a little while, I feel like I have no home any more, me and my husband have no time together in our home. I am to the point where I am angry and sad. I told my husband I am not happy I feel like our marriage is not in a good place anymore. I need some suggestions please.


  11. August 19, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Posted by Becky

    My dad is 82 and has struggled for the past 3 years after back surgery. I have tried to be there as much as I can. I work and live 200 miles away. I drive down every every Saturday to visit and my stepmother takes the day off. I take the day off work and drive down other times when I feel I am needed. This has been a rough year where Dad has been in and out of hospitals and rehab so much that Medicare no longer is paying. My stepmother refuses to apply for Medicaid because it would require her to pay down her stocks which she wants to leave to her children. She thinks I should pay for his care at this point. I don't have the money to do this unless I clear out my husband's 401K. I want to do right by my dad but I don't know what to do.


    • September 24, 2019 at 1:57 am | Posted by Susan

      I’m not a lawyer,.... but wonder if your stepmom put her assets into a trust, so not in her name,... if you could then apply for Medicaid. I hate the concept and idea of divorce,... but even if they stayed together it might be an option? I’m a Christian so truly hate that idea,... but I understand the predicament. This probably wouldn’t help unless your stepmom wasn’t in the picture,.. but if either of them are veterans and served I think two days during war time,... he might qualify for aid and attendance money through the VA. It might be 1200 per month. God bless you and guide you, in Jesus name.


  12. August 17, 2019 at 10:48 am | Posted by Anne Beaty

    I've been caring for my 85 year old mother for over 8 years now as well as running the family business single handed. I'm the youngest of 5 children and in spite of repeatedly asking the others for help with mother and running of the business not one of them has stepped up to help. They have always been unfair and at times very spiteful with put downs, and generally nasty comments about anything I do with regards to the business or mothers care. I've recently moved into a new house with mother and my partner and her son. Although it is very high level of care needed as she is unable to walk after a fall in a care home while she was there for a short while to recover from illness and now dimenta is taking hold of her. I've reached the point now with all 4 of them and decided to cut them loose as they cause me nothing but more stress on top of all the other stress. They even have the neck to question if my partner is getting paid to care for our mother! It's all about money to them which I find very cold and disrespectful.


    • April 26, 2020 at 11:24 am | Posted by Teresa

      My sister to is always there with her hand out when it comes to money but never a hand to help. I feel your pain ? and frustration


  13. August 8, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Posted by Ray Moral

    First I feel for all of you, I am a son-in-law in this picture, and my wife and her sister share parents, my wife the mother and the sister the father, unfortunately the rest of their family are a bunch of bums. The father just passed away and all hell is breaking out, these idiots that have done nothing are now coming around trying to take her away as she owns houses and a good bank account.. I am sick of it, If I felt that one of the idiots would do a good job I would pass this on to them in a heart beat, my mother in law is a nightmare. I am trying to convince her to provide power of attorney and have a living will so that the animals are kept at bay. I feel sorry for her, she already has so much to worry about and now this? stinks hope she agrees with us and we can then make moves to keep the leaches away. Thank you, Frustrated one


  14. May 14, 2019 at 9:42 pm | Posted by Randi Schellhammer

    My husband and I are dealing with my mother in law who has refused to do and type of pre arrangements for her care. She won’t make any legal arrangements or power of attorney for her medical care or her house. All she say is she’s not leaving her home to go into any type of facility. Now she is in moderate stages of dementia which I have been noticing for the past year and my husband has been in denial saying she just took some type of anti anxiety med which is causing her to be “off”. My husband and I are dealing with her daily needs along with a caregiver who comes in the morning for a few hours to stay with her and do light housekeeping and again in the early evening to get her ready for bed. My husband has been modifying her house with ADA toilets, grab bars, railing etc. My sister in law seems to be running things from afar , sending texts , watching her bank account but rarely showing up for the activities of daily living. Now she’s accusing my husband of taking money from my mother in law’s account which he does do under my mother in law’s directions. Mind you she doesn’t think there is anything wrong so she is going about her daily life as usual. She even wants to buy a new car but we have hidden her car keys so she can’t drive. But she continues cooking and baking and we try to be there everyday to help. I guess I’m just upset that my husband and I have been there every day and the other 2 siblings are basically absent but now my husband is accused of taking money. I’m angry because he won’t even take gas money from her for all the running around that he does . I pack up all her medicine every week and put them in pill packs because the home health aides are not allowed. My husband does all the handy man chores around the house that saves her money. We’re not talking about Lot of money either. 800.00 for 1 month of groceries, gas , lawn care for 2 properties, dog grooming, medications for the dog and herself. We leave the receipts on the table but I’m not sure what my mother in law does with them. She doesn’t really think my sister in law should be nosing into her account anyway. By the way my husband name is on the account as he has been the one to be there every day checking on her. When I saw the text from my sister in law about all of this I called her and told her to come home and do all of this herself because we’re done. I’m livid and my husband won’t defend himself. The other brother just threw him under the bus and said I haven’t been in mom’s account in 3 weeks. Yeah we’ll he’a been MIA with all the help too!


  15. May 13, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Posted by kathy

    Hi, my mom is 82 now and lives alone. She has had mental health issues, narcissism and all together very difficult our whole lives. I have 6 brothers and sisters, we are very close. We are trying to figure out a rational plan with mom as she has severe mobility issues and yet won't take our help as she is always mad at us. We are trying to talk to her about power of attorney or making a plan. We tried to get her one of those alarms to wear if you fall, but she cancelled the installation of the technology for it in her house. It feels like she tries to sabotage everything we try to do for her. I am at a loss. I am just waiting to hear that she has fallen and is in the hospital. I feel like there is nothing else we can do. She would never let a personal support worker in her home so that is not a solution. I am going to start an aging parent/caregiver group as I need support. I live away from my family also. Any advice or suggestions? thank you.


    • July 1, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Posted by Carol

      You mother probably has some type of dementia, my mother was difficult all my life but became moreso over the past few yesrs, she's 85. I took her to a neurologist and got meds, they haven't helped much but at least I have a plan. You have to be stern nurse at times, believe me I am the only one there for my mother, at least you have your siblings, mine backed out completely. My mother is very hateful, as she has FTD - a form of dementia that changes who you the end it will be assisted living bc no one can take care of someone with that issue. right now she has a full time live in caregiver but with her condition not sure how long that will last, meds are your best bet and we had to give consequences....if you don't or wont' help yourself you will have to go live somewhere where they can take care of you.


    • July 2, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Posted by Jacki

      We bought our elderly mother an Alexa. If she fell, or needed anything, all she had to do was say outloud, "Alexa, call (name)," and it would call that person. Not sure of details of how it was set up or how it worked off the Wi-Fi as a sibling took care of that part.


Share your thoughts, stories and comments:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *