Critter Corner: Mistakes Adult Siblings Make When Caregiving for a Parent

Dear Bebe,

When I was growing up, I was the organized one who was responsible and did what he was told, and my sister was also pretty on-top of things. My brother–not so much. Now, we are at a point where we need to work together to be caregivers for our dad, who lives in my sister’s neighborhood (my brother lives in 10 hours away Florida and I live about half an hour away from my dad). For our dad’s sake, I want us to work together and do the best we can collectively.

My siblings and I typically learn from mistakes, but in this case since we’re so new at this, we don’t have any yet. What are some mistakes adult siblings make when caregiving for a parent, and how can we avoid them in our new roles?


Omri Sponsible

Dear Omri,

One of life’s most trying transitions is when parents are aging, sick, or dying, and adult children are thrust into the roles of caregivers. Below, are mistakes that adult children have made when attempting to navigate this new role:

  • Thinking that “if my sibling is doing the parent care, I’m off the hook”
    Although it’s rare for siblings to share parent care equally, it is a family responsibility. Even if your brother is not as close-by to your ailing father as you and your sister are, everyone can still help out. From setting up transportation for a ride to a doctor’s appointment to paying bills online, anything that can be done via telephone or Internet is within everyone’s reach. Just calling your dad more often can provide relief to the sibling carrying the heaviest load, as can making the trip to be with your dad whenever possible, so you or another sibling can take time off.
  • Not giving appreciation and emotional support to the main caregiver A common complaint of many caregivers is that their siblings sometimes criticize what they do and how they do it. Research suggests that emotional support is the most important factor to a caregiver’s well-being. If you do have a legitimate concern, avoid being too critical with your siblings. Caregivers should be in it together, and support one another in positive ways.
  • Falling prey to the misconception that “I shouldn’t have to ask” If you or your sister are the ones bearing the brunt of your parent’s care, tell your brother you need his help. Many siblings say, “If my brother were a good person, he would volunteer to help me and would know what to do.” That’s akin to mind reading. If you need help, ask for it.
  • Automatically reverting to childhood roles: You or your sister always took care of everything when you were children, which may make you think you will be the ones taking on the bulk of the responsibility with your dad, out of habit. Beware of that magnet pulling you back to childhood. Those roles can counterproductive.

I hope this is helpful for you, and you and your siblings have great success in caring for your dad!



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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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