Question: “I feel that the work involved in caring for Mom is unfairly distributed amongst the siblings. Some of us are working too hard, feeling overwhelmed and others are barely doing anything, what can we do about it?”

Answer: Often in this busy generation, only one child actually lives near mom or dad and is busy working and has her own family to care for.Other siblings may not live in the same city or even state or country; which means that a disproportionate amount of work is falling on one person. In this case it’s time to call a family meeting either getting together physically, and if this is not possible by conference call or mail.

The agenda of this meeting should include a discussion of all the myriad duties that need to be divided up, as well as present and future concerns. The sibling who has been the primary caregiver up to now should prepare a list of topics to be discussed. If this seems too overwhelming, a geriatric case manager can be hired to act as an intermediary focusing the discussions on the work at hand.

What to discuss

  • Who will be in charge of the finances?
  • Have we taken care of any legal matters or health insurance coverage issues?
  • Who will research the best long-term care options?
  • Who will make sure mom’s medications are purchased and given daily in the appropriate times and quantities?
  • Who will be in charge of any home repairs?
  • What about meals and shopping for groceries?
  • When a doctor’s appointment arrives, or mom is hospitalized, who will be there for her?
  • Do we need to provide mom with a companion some of the day or is she already in need of someone 24/7?
  • Are there any therapies or on-going appointments mom must be taken to?
  • Do we as a family have to handle this among ourselves or can some of this be hired out and done by others?

How to discuss

Mentally, we have to prepare ourselves to put aside old grievances and come with a positive mental attitude and a realistic look at the situation, while acknowledging the historic parent-child relationships in our family. Some children have a good and close overall relationship with mom or dad and others much less.

Siblings should discuss what each feels they personally are capable of doing.  Each should pick what they are best at. Bill is a whiz at finances and Molly always seems to have time for doctor’s appointments. Paul is an expert at researching options and lives out of town. In seeking help, we can also look to other family members: wives, husbands and grandchildren might be willing to take on a responsibility or two.

What next?

In many cases, the family meeting reveals that it’s time to hire more home care, whether a geriatric case manager, part-time companion or 24/7 caregiver. Creating a weekly or monthly schedule with the major appointments and obligations, attaching the family members or employees name who will be handling it, will go a long way in clarifying what the jobs are and who will be following through. And don’t forget……everyone involved must get a copy.

Rather than build up resentments, we must realize that it is normal and common that there is no absolute fair and even distribution amongst siblings. Nonetheless, everyone can do something.

When families work together to try and meet the needs of the parent to the best of their abilities, everyone can feel proud of their contributions and the parent feels a secure satisfaction that their children are working as a unit in managing their care.