Take a Load Off, Sister: Tips for sharing the caregiver role with siblings

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Tips for sharing the caregiver role with siblings

Our director of development, Meredith Hale, wrote a piece for the May issue of Inviting Arkansas sharing ways brothers and sisters can work together to care for their aging parents. You can read it on their site, or read the unabridged version below.


Caring for an aging loved one, especially your parents, can be tough. Add siblings to the mix and every day can seem like a battle. Between struggling to get your parents to do what you say and getting brothers and sisters to share the load, being a family caregiver can be the hardest thing you do.

Whether you have one sibling or five, knowing how to manage personalities and delegate responsibilities are key to caring for your aging parents.

Before determining who gets to do dishes and who gets to do the heavy lifting, talk with your parents and siblings to determine exactly what kind of care your parents need and how much time your siblings are able to commit. While everyone wants to think they’ll be there for their parents when the time comes, it isn’t always realistic. Between work, children, and hobbies, it isn’t always possible for someone to become a family caregiver, which is why it’s important to look at local organizations that provide in-home care options.

But if you ultimately decide to take on the role of caregiver, talk to your brothers and sisters before you begin this new chapter.

Choose someone to be the primary caregiver.

If you are not equipped to be the main caregiver, whether it’s because of your job, family commitments, location, etc., speak up. Let someone else take the lead if they have the time and abilities. Being a caregiver is hard enough without feeling like you aren’t the right person for the job.

Talk about strengths.

No likes doing dishes, but some people might prefer dishes than assisting with baths and dressing. Once you’ve determined what your parents need help with, find out who wants to do what. You will be more apt to say yes when asked to help if you don’t completely dread the task at hand. As much as you may love your parents and want to help them age in place, you won’t be able to give them the care they need if you have a negative mindset.

Create a schedule.

Only available on weekends after 2 p.m.? Share it with your siblings and write it down. Although it doesn’t mean you won’t be asked to help outside of that timeline, it does mean your family knows when you are available. It will allow other members of the family to schedule moments of rest for themselves. As well as identify areas when help from an organization might be needed, should you determine ‘round the clock care is what your mom and dad need.

Work together.

At the end of the day, working together to give your parents the best care you can will have a more positive impact on their ability to age in place. The less uncertainty everyone has about who is helping with what and when will make the transition to in-home care easier and smoother. And if you ever find yourself needing a break because the emotional and physical weight of being a family caregiver is becoming too much, call in reinforcements. Caregiver burnout is very real and can take a major toll on one’s mental wellbeing.

CareLink, a local nonprofit and Area Agency on Aging, provides resources like respite care and Meals on Wheels to help older people and their families overcome the challenges of aging. Trained care coordinators work with your family to identify the needs of your aging loved one and assist in scheduling services to help elder loved ones age safely and independently in their homes. As well as provide services to help the family caregiver in your life perform to the best of their abilities. For more information about CareLink and how they can be there for your family, call their Information & Assistance department at 501.372.5300 or send an email to info@carelink.org.

Information regarding CareLink’s response to COVID-19 and the precautions they are taking to ensure the safety and wellbeing of caregivers and those receiving care is available on their website at CareLink.org/blog/posts/carelinks-covid-19-announcement.