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.




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.


  • 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 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 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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