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Managing sibling rivalry while caregiving

When aging parents begin to experience health problems that require caregiving, sibling rivalry can emerge. 

This can sabotage efforts to provide good care, despite everyone’s best intentions.

The key to avoiding extra stress and even an all-out family feud is to learn to manage those sibling conflicts that get in the way.

Deep-seated conflicts among siblings often originate in childhood, which can make them tricky to smooth out. Even adults who think they’ve managed to leave those old feelings behind often find them resurfacing when family pressures heat up.

Old Rivalries Can be Replaced by a New Set of Family Dynamics

The good news is there are several pathways to improve relationships with your siblings. The key is finding the one that works for your unique situation.

Here are a few suggestions from experts on family relationships.

1. Keep a Good Perspective on What’s at Stake

Sibling rivalry may cause a noticeable rise in stress levels for everyone, including your parent(s). Caregiver issues and health issues associated with aging already pose possible heightened stress levels, but adding sibling rivalry to the blend raises the toxicity levels even higher.

Your sibling squabbles could potentially become an added health issue for the very person or people whose health you’re trying to protect!

Take a step back and remind yourself what’s at stake and what is most important: your parent’s health and safety. When you pause to do that it might make it easier to work through issues with your siblings.

2. Know That the Stakes are High in Other Ways, Too

Barry J. Jacobs, a family therapist and clinical psychologist with the AARP, says the way everyone behaves during caregiving will stick with you for the rest of your lives. In other words, these caregiving years can set the tone for how well you and your siblings get along in the future, long after your parent(s) are gone.

3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Communication can get scrambled when emotions are running strong. It’s also hard to keep everyone informed when siblings live all over the country. Poor communication can spark tense relations, so work hard to stay in touch.

A big complaint in such situations is that one sibling feels hurt or disrespected when they learn of a decision that was made without them. Very often, medical conditions can arise suddenly, so someone forgets to notify a far-away sibling.

Whatever the cause, creating a plan for better communications may help your family avoid potential conflicts.

4. Be Proactive and Do Some Planning

As with most things in life, a little planning goes a long way. The time to talk about caregiving roles and responsibilities is before a major crisis. The best way to ensure pleasant collaboration between you and your siblings is to divide the tasks ahead of time and decide which, if any, caregiving roles will be outsourced.

Planning the financial aspects of your group caregiving is essential, too.

Not to be overlooked as a critical source of sibling conflict are the financial aspects of caregiving. Be sure to talk to your siblings and plan this side of caregiving.

Consider Getting Some Help with Caregiving

When there’s an issue that none of you feel confident handling on your own, it may be time to seek outside help. Whether it’s what to do when the primary caregiver goes on vacation or how to finance senior living options, Sunrise Senior Living can help.

Call us today and find out about the services we offer short-term visitors when you need a break or talk with a Sunrise resident on what it’s like to enjoy living as a full-time resident at one of our Sunrise communities.


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