A Sibling’s Survival Guide to Caring for Aging Parents

Advice For Caregivers

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Updated: May 23, 2023


elderly on a wheelchair with cane

Featured Image Credit: Klimkin / Pixabay

If you’re like most families, you’ve likely had a childhood punctuated by random quarrels among siblings. However, there comes a time when you all must band together – when your parents are no longer able to care for themselves. How do you ensure things go well when it comes to caring for elderly parents?

Most importantly, communication is crucial, meaning you’ll have to put aside past differences. Be sure to work as a team and support each other through these trying times, even when it comes to sensitive legal matters. If the time comes, to call in a professional, make sure everyone feels the same way.

Following is a sibling survival guide to caring for aging parents.

Communicate When It’s Time to Step In

Confusion, a lack of energy, issues getting dressed or standing up, memory loss, or missed medication doses. These are just a few of the things that suggest your elderly parents are beginning to need assistance. There’s no specific age that signals when – you’ll just have to use your best judgment.

Remember, admitting you’ve reached an age where you need help taking care of yourself might be a sensitive topic. For this reason, you must handle the issue with understanding and care.

While the added responsibility might be a bit demanding, if you stick together as a team, you’re sure to find it a little easier. When the signs become obvious, be sure to communicate with your siblings that it’s time to step in.

Make sure everyone has a chance to speak, and be sure to listen with an open mind. Let each other know that help is needed, both financially and physically.

Everyone has a busy schedule and their own budgetary restrictions. But remember, your parents were there for you before you could take care of yourself. Reaching the point where it is your turn, should feel like a rite of passage, a milestone not everyone has the pleasure of experiencing.

Start by offering support in small ways. Like picking up prescriptions, doing grocery shopping , or offering to stop by to help clean up.

man writing on a table

Featured Image Credit: Free-Photos / Pixabay

Don’t Let Legal Matters Get in the Way

You may be surprised at how much someone can change when it comes to money, possessions, or property.

Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to disperse their assets as they see fit as outlined in their will. Even if you or one of your siblings feels they deserve a more substantial cut, due to putting more time and effort into their care, the decision is theirs alone.

As for determining who’s in charge of handling their legal matters, you all (along with your parents) should discuss who will be the executor. It may be best to have more than one too. Then, ask your parents to fill out a Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive after clearly explaining the purpose of each.

The former allows you to make specific legal decisions on their behalf, such as handling their banking and paying their bills. The latter frames how medical care should be handled.

Wouldn’t it feel great to look back and know that you and your siblings were able to handle everything without burning any bridges? Thankfully, having a rational talk early on should allow you all to agree on the proper steps before emotions get involved.

If you feel things are beginning to take a turn for the worse, you might also consider hiring some legal help from an elder law attorney. This type of professional can help ensure things stay on track, lessening anyone getting their feelings hurt. Remember, the idea is to come out of this still on speaking terms with the rest of your family.

Work As a Team and Support Each Other

Aging doesn’t always take the most beautiful form. Sometimes it’s remarkably difficult to witness, especially if medical issues are involved. For this reason, you and your siblings must support each other.

If one of you is having an especially trying week, someone else needs to step in. Perhaps instead of acting as a caregiver for that week, let that sibling do the grocery shopping or pick up any prescriptions.

Your best bet is to avoid the inevitable “snap” – meaning that someone breaks down from frustration. A great way to catch this early on is to coordinate a weekly meeting, whether in person or via video call. Be sure to discuss how everyone is feeling and mention things that may have changed regarding the health or behavior of your parents.

Don’t just focus on the negatives; be sure to share positive experiences as well. Doing so will help boost morale and strengthen ties.

Know When to Bring In a Professional

Eventually, there may come a time when even the combined strength of you and your siblings isn’t enough. When this happens, you’ll need to have the talk about bringing in a healthcare professional to assist with caregiving.

A few common ailments among elderly parents include:

  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Bladder problems
  • Depression
  • Cataracts

Any of these can be devastating for aging parents, interfering with how they go about their daily lives. Many of these require constant attention, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. But even things like bladder problems and depression may need a watchful eye to ensure they don’t worsen.

It’s not just your parents to worry about either; you might need to consider a family counselor to keep everyone in the right frame of mind. Thankfully, phone sessions are also an option, which makes getting help easier to manage.

Final Thoughts

Listen, you knew this time would come eventually. Thankfully, if you keep the lines of communication open and coordinate everything as rationally as possible, you’re sure to overcome anything that comes your way. Stop the bickering, put your heads together, and give your parents the best experience you all can, during their final years.