6 Ways to Improve the Situation When Siblings Don’t Help with Aging Parents

when siblings don't help with aging parents

Managing caregiving with siblings can be frustrating

When caring for parents, conflicts with siblings are frustrating and stressful for the primary caregiver.

In an article from Next Avenue, experts answered two top reader questions about caregiving with siblings:

  • What can you do when siblings don’t help with aging parents?
  • How do you handle conflicts when some siblings live far away and some are nearby?

Here, we summarize the key points from their 6 tips for working with siblings to care for parents and add our insights.


6 tips for when siblings don’t help with aging parents

1. Don’t expect equality
It’s important to have realistic expectations. Caregiving responsibilities are almost always divided unequally.

Typically, one or two siblings will take on the bulk of the work.

Rather than expecting that everyone will do an equal share of the work, focus on what each person can do, even if it’s not as much as you’d like them to do.


2. When a sibling lives elsewhere
The amount that a sibling can help does depend on how close they are to where the parents live.

It’s natural that the people who live closest will be the ones who can help pick up a prescription, go to a doctor’s appointment, or rush to the ER in an emergency.

The long-distance siblings should try to help however they can, but they should also let the nearby siblings be in charge.

Too often, long-distance siblings try to tell others what to do when they don’t even have a full understanding of the situation – making the nearby siblings angry and frustrated.

If you’re the nearby sibling, ask your long-distance siblings to help with research or paperwork, contribute financially, or come for a visit and take over the caregiving so you can take a short break.


3. No one is a mind reader
When siblings aren’t there to witness daily life, they often don’t understand how much the caregiver is doing.

Expecting a sibling to know when their help is needed isn’t realistic – they won’t be able to read your mind.

That’s why it’s important to ask for help when you need it.

And if siblings refuse to help, seek help from community resources, friends, or hire professional help.


4. Knowing when to let it go
Some siblings in the family may refuse to help care for your parents or may stop helping at some point.

If they aren’t willing to work on resolving the issues, the best approach may be for you to just let it go.

Trying to change someone is not likely to be successful and will only add to your stress and anger.

5. When your sibling is out of touch
Sometimes siblings don’t do their share of the work because they don’t think there’s a problem or they’re in denial about how serious the situation is.

When that happens, it helps to share information with them in a formal, regular way – like via email, conference call, family meeting, etc.

Make sure to share doctor’s notes, diagnoses, test results, etc.

Having the facts may help them realize what’s happening and how much help is truly needed.


6. Acknowledge each others’ strengths
Each person has a different personality and strengths.

Some people may be well-suited to hands-on care, some may be great at navigating the healthcare system, some might be good at running errands and fixing things around the house, and others may be great with financial and legal paperwork.

Recognize each person has strengths and weaknesses and ask each sibling to help with the tasks that they’re best suited to do.


Next Step  Get more advice on how to work with siblings when caring for parents in the full article at Next Avenue


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Smart Price Warehouse


This article wasn’t sponsored and doesn’t contain affiliate links. For more information, see How We Make Money.

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  • Reply February 7, 2024


    Our 92 yo mother is in Assisted Living. 3 children help with her needs: food, essentials and taking her to doctors. One sibling is 35 min away, the other 2 are one hour away. The one that is 35 min away will only visit her with their spouse, they will never visit her alone. Also that sibling will only visit her once/mo. The other 2 siblings who liver further away will visit her 2-3 times a month. Also the one that lives the closest to mom will never have her over to visit. UGH!!!

    • Reply February 7, 2024


      It’s helpful that all siblings are contributing at least some help on a regular basis, even though it may not be as much or in the way that you may have hoped. Perhaps some of the suggestions above could help to improve the situation.

  • Reply September 22, 2021


    I just spent my summer—250 hours—-clearing a full basement and garage in the home I share with my 84 year old mother.

    The job needed to be done In preparation of the house potentially being sold next year. I’m fortunate that my 84 year old mother is fairly functional and drives. But. She has no shoulders or back left and can’t do physical work.

    For five years, I have prepared three meals a day, do the food shopping, haul trash, do errands as necessary, find contractors, vendors etc. I estimate I spend 60 hours a month.

    My siblings don’t visit my mother socially, nor have they helped with manual labor on house and grounds maintenance. There is five years of deferred maintenance on the property due to my mother not wanting to spend money or deal with it.

    Now the house must be repaired for sale.
    I created a comprehensive, three page spreadsheet for the maintenance requirements. The work is underway due to the contractor I found.

    The problem: my siblings do not want to pay me for the 250 hours of work I did on the clear out this summer. I have never asked for any compensation to date for anything I do here.

    The attitude is: I live here rent free. My brother says “I’ve been paid.” He is the sibling that never visits. Last time was two years ago.

    I had a screaming meltdown with my mother four days ago about this. My sister claims she was going to pay after my mother pushed the issue. But no money has appeared.

    She wanted to “talk” to me. I do not want to talk to my sister. There is nothing to talk about. The work is done.

    The hours were documented and sent. And my reasonable fee was supplied. I indicated that there would be no further paid jobs I would be conducting. There is nothing left to do here except the work the contractor will be doing.

    I feel taken advantage of. I don’t expect them to change. I just want my money.

  • Reply September 18, 2021

    Janet mahoney

    I feel like saying to my siblings, do you really think this is what I want to do everyday? I have a life, grandchildren, my husband is still alive but your wants and needs are way more important than mine. You 3 siblings screw off and I can’t leave Ma with dementia home alone all day as you can.

  • Reply July 3, 2021

    Blue bell.

    I have the opposite problem: my sister, who lives locally to my ailing 91 year old mother, has run errands and done odd jobs, and taken care of bills, but has refused to share or discuss anything with me. I offered my help but she chose to ignore it, then complained afterwards to her partner that it has ‘all landed on her shoulders.’ She doesn’t work, is financially well off, has no commitments other than looking after her cats, and has never been involved in any hands on care, yet every conversation I have had with my mother for years has been dominated by how good my sister is, how much running about she does for her, how she could not imagine what she would do without her, etc, etc, while the reality is my sister is controlling and my mother is afraid of her (which my mother has admitted to on one occasion), and is always afraid of upsetting her (she admitted to it being like walking on eggshells). It has been impossible over the years to express to my mother how I feel about all this because she immediately sees it as some sort of attack on my sister or/and herself and gets upset and refuses to speak to me (for 18 months on one occasion). I love my mother very much but I find myself continually feeling second best and left out. I am the eldest daughter, have a family of my own, live far away, and still work at 70 years old despite having an auto-immune disease that leaves me exhausted and feeling unwell, but even so I do what I can to try and help my mother from afar, and have always reassured her that I am there for her if ever she needs me, but I get little or no recognition for any of this. On both occasions when my mother was admitted to hospital, my sister did not contact me to let me know. She obviously feels she has no moral obligation whatsoever to me or to the rest of the family. My mother is now in a care home after a long spell in hospital. I discovered that my sister had put herself down as next of kin so that any important decisions can, and have been, made by her without her consulting with me.

  • Reply June 16, 2021


    Thank you all for sharing. It was comforting knowing that others share similar experiences.

  • Reply May 31, 2021

    Margaret Davison

    It’s not always with parents – in my case it was my younger sister badly incapacitated by stroke / dementia. I am eldest of 7 siblings, yet it appeared I was only one without ‘commitments’. Eleven years on from stroke now and sadly I lost my sister Dec 2020 – my life was changed forever in 2010 and at the age of 72 difficult to start and ‘rebuild’ or ‘get my life back on track’ as was suggested to me at my sister’s funeral!

    • Reply May 31, 2021


      We’re so sorry for your loss and hope that you’re finding ways to heal and move forward with your life after so many years of caregiving.

  • Reply May 30, 2021


    My siblings dont help out with my mother. I’m my mother’s soul carer and Id never get a break or keep my job only for I pay for private carers.

  • Reply March 19, 2021


    I am our mother’s sole caregiver and also footing the costs. When I mentioned taking our 101 year old mother to stay with my brother for a month this summer so I could get a break, my sister said “You can’t do that! She would never survive the trip!” But my sister is unable to help with the care because she says “I’m just not cut out to be a caregiver.” My sister also has no money and can’t help financially.
    My brother is willing to take her for a month, but my sister thinks it would be cruel to have our mother endure a long drive and a change. My husband is starting to feel trapped and confined because my mother has dementia and needs us to be with her round the clock. What should I do?

    • Reply March 19, 2021


      Since your sister isn’t willing to help in any way, it sounds like this decision is best made by you and your brother. You certainly deserve to have help and to get a much-needed break.

      Since you mentioned driving, that can help you have more control over the timing and the surroundings during travel. For example, you can avoid busy places or crowds that might agitate your mother. You could also find ways to make the drive more comfortable for your mother. For example, you could make brief stops along the way so she can stretch and move a bit. We’ve got some suggestions about travel that might be helpful here – Traveling with Dementia: 6 Ways to Know If It Will Work https://dailycaring.com/6-ways-to-figure-out-if-traveling-with-dementia-will-work/

      And to ease the transition at your brother’s house, you could work together to try to set up an environment that’s similar to what she’s used to at your house. You could bring along her favorite familiar items that would make her feel at home. For example, her blanket or pillow, her favorite cup, or other things that might be significant to her.

      You could also stay for a day or two to help her adjust to living at your brother’s house. That might mean teaching your brother about her daily routine and little habits and preferences so he can stay consistent with what you’ve been doing at your home. Sticking with as many of the things she’s used to can make the transition easier.

    • Reply May 17, 2021


      For all of you out there trying to take care of a sick parent, I applaud you for your efforts. It really most difficult and heartbreaking. I took care of my mom while trying to work full time. I have two sisters that live here, one lives a block away. The very idea of someone saying that they are not a caretaker is infuriating. No one is born a caretaker. When you have siblings, everyone should help. Especially if they are not working or living a block away. Needless to say, this has changed my feelings towards my sisters.

      • Reply May 22, 2021


        My brother and sister have been setting it up for years that I would be the sole care giver when my Mother reached that point. My sister called to tell me that care for an elderly Mother always falls on the daughter,, she went on to tell me that she was not able and my brother has plans. She made it plaln that this would not be shared and if I was not going to be the caregiver, my mother will be living in assisted living. In the same breath she was telling me about her plans to fly for Thanksgiving, Paris, etc. She has had some health problems, but they don’t stop her from doing what she wants…..I live far away and my Mother is still and wants to be independent…..but she is 91. I am fully willing to do my part and a little more, but I cannot do it alone.

        • Reply June 13, 2021


          So sorry to hear that your brother and sister are trying to force you to assume all of the responsibility of caring for your mother. If they don’t want to contribute to hands-on care and if your mother prefers to remain at home, perhaps it would be fair for them to help pay for the cost of in-home caregivers. That way, each would be contributing in their own way and you wouldn’t be forced to do full-time, hands-on care without any help or support.

      • Reply June 9, 2021


        I’m going through this now with a sister that doesn’t work. She comes up with ridiculous excuses like she have business to care of. My mother is terminally ill. This broad has 4 children that aren’t even available on rotation. She had the audacity to tell our terminally ill mother she cannot cover for me though I have to work because her children are taking her out for birthday. What! This is my Mother’s last year on this earth. When my brother spoke to her she claimed she has to take care of business. Contradiction right? When my mother passes her a** is ghost so are her children. They’ll be the 1st ones to fall out at her funeral. All because she’s pissed that my mother asked me to handle her business because my sister is an incompetent nut job that married a jack*** and birthed sorry children with the exception of 1 that she ran off. Her beef is with me because she thinks I’m keeping stuff from her and she wants to be in charge. Shes’s terminally ill with lung cancer and chose to pass without treatment. Even my mom told her crazy a**. Though I’m pissed I never show it in front of my mom and I stay silent with her because it’s not about me or her. I told her to pocket her ill-will towards me because it’s all hands on deck. From here on in we’re simply related due to having being birthed by the same woman. Other than that,,,,,to hell with her.

        • Reply June 9, 2021


          So sorry to hear about your sister’s uncaring attitude and behavior! It’s wonderful that you can be there to support and care for your mother in her final year and that you’re trying to give her as much peace as possible by not discussing these issues in front of her.

      • Reply August 26, 2021


        Thanks for the applause and a big applause for you. My two brothers and one sister do not offer much help with our Mom. All three of them live in the same city as me and are in close range. Caretaking a dementia parent is not easy, it takes up all of your time and your burnt out, thank god I have two great sons that are very supportive and helpful of the situation. If I could arrrest my brothers and sister for neglect for not helping me take care of our mom I would have them arrested and put in jail. I definitely look at them all in a different way.

    • Reply June 30, 2021


      I am the eldest of seven, I have four sisters and two brothers. One brother lives in another country, but everyone else lives locally.

      I have been left to do the majority of the caring for our 90 year old father who has Alzheimer’s, covering approximately 100 daytime hours per week. My brother stays at night.

      One sister told me I was the ideal person to stay with father since I could run my business from father’s home whilst no-one else was in that position and she couldn’t help, because she had her business to run and she couldn’t divide herself.

      Another sister, when I told her that needed some help, shrugged her shoulders saying “I have a life you know”. She does find time to make spontaneous visits of approximately 20 minutes though, during which she’ll inspect and make comment on whether the bench or the floor has been cleaned to her satisfaction.

      Recently I have been paying a lady to cover a few hours on a day during the week to give me a chance to try to keep my business afloat.
      Today my sister stormed into father’s house with a plated dinner, whilst the lady was there. She was annoyed to find I had left a prepared lunch for both father and the lady who was there with him.
      She then checked the fridge for “out of date food”, checked a cupboard to see if I was keeping wine in the house, disposed of some fresh fruit I had bought this morning and asked the lady if I had made an appearance today.

      At the end of her brief visit she was heard informing father that she was busy and had to go.
      She has part-time job, finishing at 2pm each day. She chooses to do evening hairdressing appointments in people’s houses, but refuses to take an evening off to look after her father.

      My fear is that her arrogance and rudeness will drive away the one bit of help I do get. My business has suffered terribly in the past year.

      • Reply June 30, 2021


        It’s great that your brother is able to help during the night. We’re sad to hear that your sisters and other siblings have been so unhelpful and unsupportive.

        Hopefully, you can speak with the woman you’ve hired to apologize for and explain your sister’s poor behavior and ask her to bear with the situation and let her know that you’ll be speaking with your sister. Then, speak with your sister to explain that you have arranged for good care for your father.

        You might let her know that unless she would like to commit to providing care during those times, this woman will be helping your father. Since your sister is too busy to care for your father, this woman needs to be treated with respect so she will stay in this job.

  • Reply December 22, 2020


    I asked my sibling to take our mother for one day a week and she said she just couldn’t do it. Shes not cut out for caregiving. I am the full time caregiver but I don’t get a break.

    • Reply December 22, 2020


      We’re so sorry that your sibling isn’t willing to help. If she won’t do any hands-on care, perhaps she could help pay for hired caregiving help or take care of other chores like running errands, cleaning, and other things that take up your time and energy.

      Getting some outside caregiving help could also allow you to take some much-needed breaks and get time away from caregiving.

      Here are some articles with helpful suggestions:
      – Caring for the Caregiver: 6 Ways to Get Help and Improve Your Health https://dailycaring.com/caring-for-the-caregiver-6-ways-to-get-help-and-improve-your-health/
      – Affordable In Home Care: 8 Ways to Lower Senior Care Costs https://dailycaring.com/affordable-in-home-care-8-ways-to-lower-senior-care-costs/

    • Reply June 13, 2021


      Sorry to hear all of these familiar stories. I’m in the same situation. I’m one of 4 ‘children’ and had my mom move in with me (Im a single mom with 3 kids) a few years ago when her eye sight deteriorated and she had cancer. Not only do my siblings not help – they have all but washed their hands of her – using COVID as an excuse mainly. It’s very sad and telling and outrageously selfish. I have asked for help so I can get a tiny break. They simple don’t care and have not stepped up even for one day. I’m appreciative of article suggestion to help work through this baffling phenomenon.

    • Reply June 19, 2024


      I’m in the same boat. All you can do is stand there with your jaw on the floor in such utter disbelief that they would even THINK it would be ok to say what they’re saying while we cannot believe what we’re hearing. Who are these ppl? They turn into the most selfish beings. I can’t even process the let down. So painful.

  • Reply August 25, 2020

    Phyllis Denison

    Many of us with a husband or wife with Dementia or memory issues or Alzheimer’s have NO family. No children involved, no other relatives and while we all have friends, none of them are going to step in to provide assistance with care.
    Add to that issue, being on a fixed income, ours is less than $2,800 per month and the possibility of engaging Home Health or placement in a decent, well run, clean and safe facility is simply not possible.
    Here in AZ, average annual cost of Assisted Living is $72,000! For those existing on just Social Security = there is no way.
    In AZ we have the ALTCS – AZ Long Term Care System – which is a Medicaid program. You must be able to qualify financially and then, find a suitable facility in which to place your loved one. Here, in Tucson, there are only 4 which accept ALTCS and most only have one or two rooms that have waiting lists. While they are somewhat suitable, there is one that is not, by my standards as a wife, care giver and former RN and Home Health Supervisor.
    So, until the financial issues are really seriously addressed, be aware of many seniors trying to stay in their homes, be they apartments, mobile homes or even motel rooms that do not have access to good care, can’t afford the constantly rising rents and utilities along with health care costs and medication, food, etc.
    Seniors in our country are the forgotten and seemingly, the undersirables. Who is going to change that?

    • Reply August 29, 2020


      It’s sadly true, lack of support for seniors and family caregivers is a significant problem in this country. Unfortunately, policies won’t change until we vote in the people who will make positive changes – at every level of government: city, state, and federal. It’s more important than ever that we learn about the issues and candidates from reputable sources and use our votes to improve support for seniors.

      AARP advocates in states and in Washington D.C. on important issues such as Social Security, Medicare and high utility rates. They share information about policies and what we all can do to influence lawmakers. Learn more about their work here – https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/

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