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Involving Siblings and Seniors in Eldercare Planning

Planning for care resources now can help you avoid major issues later and prepare families and their aging relatives for whatever lies ahead.

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In many instances, the responsibility for caring for a senior relative tends to fall on one person who becomes the Primary Family Caregiver, usually the spouse, the grown daughter of the senior, or the family member that lives the closest to the person needing assistance. However, this situation often occurs because families do little pre-planning for this care.

In fact, in a recent Home Instead survey, more than half of families who plan to care for a senior in the next five years have made absolutely no plans for it, with a majority of families not even discussing it with their family members or the senior(s) themselves. It is usually not until an emergency arises that families realize they are unprepared…and then they are straddled with a caregiving crisis—having to make quick decisions in the heat of the moment.

Proper planning will help ease the crisis of family caregiving now or when it arises in the future. In addition, proper planning can help diminish the stress of placing all caregiving responsibilities on the shoulders of just one person.

By asking and involving as many family members as possible, including the senior himself/herself, early on so that everyone's thoughts are heard, good plans can be made and agreed upon together as a family. If you are the organizer and don't have siblings, consider including extended family members and friends into the mix.

During this meeting, roles should be discussed. Perhaps one adult child is responsible for going to the doctor with the senior each month to get a sense of the senior's health/well-being, while another family member makes sure the checkbooks are balanced and bills are paid. Perhaps the sibling that lives across the country volunteers to fly in her parent(s) for a two-week visit during the summer so that the other siblings can get a break, and she also meets with the family when she comes home for the holidays. Whatever the arrangement that suits your family, it is important to split the responsibilities to help minimize caregiver burnout, but to also take into account the senior's wishes and needs first.

The 50-50 Rule® program offers tips on how to initiate open discussions between adult siblings in an effort to help them improve communication skills, develop teamwork, make decisions together and divide the workload when caring for aging parents.

Talking in advance to older family members about potential circumstances that might require someone to help them out, can be helpful preparation. Then, in the event that this help is needed, it won't be seen as such a foreign idea to them.

Often, seniors can be resistant to the idea of care because they fear they will lose control of their lives or they are afraid of becoming a burden to their family. Instead, the senior needs to be reassured, early on, that if care is eventually needed from a family member or a professional resource, this care is for their benefit and will help them maintain their independence at home for as long as possible.

Family members should meet periodically to discuss their roles in the senior's care. Families should also avail themselves of outside, professional resources, such as professional caregivers and other senior services, should the time come when the level of care needed is too much for the family to supply alone. Families may also benefit from seeking outside help to assist in resolving family disputes over care, medical decisions, finances, etc. that may arise. Researching planning for care resources now can help you avoid major issues later and prepare families and their aging relatives for whatever lies ahead.

Last revised: April 12, 2010

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. October 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Posted by mrs anne

    Cynthia my mother sounds a lot like yours. She goes to the local senior center every day. Most cities have door to door bus service for seniors that cannot manage on the normal bus. For us its $3 per day for transportation and $3 for lunch which is provided by meals on wheels. It is a great way to get her out of the house and provide something to do and at $120 per month you can't beat it. She was resistant at first but after the first few weeks she liked and expected it. She has stayed at an assisted living place just for the weekend when we had to go away for $100 per night including food and activities. We can only afford this occasionally but it sure it nice and she actually likes it alot. She complains about everything but that does not deter me. She was so cranky that the doc put her on anti-depressants and it has helped so very very much with the mood swings. You may have to be very specific with the doc and request a trial of the meds to help with the cranky. I'm not big on the whole antidepressant movement but in this case it is a godsend. This is your life too. Don't feel guilty for making decisions she may not always agree with. Good luck! ps. I recently lost 10 pounds with the help of drinking one cup of tension tamer tea every night, it has eleuthera and I had never heard of that herb before but it sure kick starts my 50 year old metabolism.


  2. October 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Posted by Cynthia Flowers

    We did not prepare for my mother's care. She lives with me in an apartment that I had to rent because the bedrooms in my home are upstairs. She receives too much money to qualify for medicaid but not enough to pay for assisted living. She is able to do some things for herself, but as long as I'm there, she won't do anything. She is not in bad enough shape to go into a nursing home. I don't have a care giver frame of mind. I never married or had children because I didn't want to be a care giver. I have no siblings. My health is failing, overweight, diabetes, stress, depression. I do not make enough money to hire a professional care giver. They want too many hours and my mother doesn't want to be around anyone that often anyway. HELP!!!


  3. September 16, 2010 at 10:55 am | Posted by Linda Olsen

    All of this sounds so nicely packaged but what do you do with a 90 year old man who will not let anybody into his home including family? I am his daughter and I know this can not go on forever, but what do I do? He's healthy and mobile and takes care of his own needs. He still drives which is scary. But, he has spent $250000 on gambling and Nigerian Scams. None of us can convince him that the scammers are not his friends. He has mortgaged his home now to continue paying out all his money to the scammers and to support his scratch ticket addiction (he admits to spending $10,000.00 in one year just on gambling!) He is in his right mind when it comes to anything else. He applied for food stamps and fuel assistance all on his own and received both. He just has a hole in his brain when it comes to his addiction and the scams. None of the family, myself included, needs or wants his money but we are concerned for his welfare in the near future. He has tried to wangle money out of me and two of my children to give to the crooks under the guise of "float me a loan". I am at my wits end with my father. I have contacted Elder Services, the Attorney General's office and the FBI to no avail.My father does not live with me but that does not mean the stress of dealing with him is any less. The whole family has urged him to go into assisted living when he still had the means to do so. Well, thanks for letting me vent. I know all of this is a waiting game but it is very stressful knowing that there is nothing anyone can do.


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