Gary's Guidance: More about Siblings and Aging Parents with Dementia

August 2014

One of the more common things about adult siblings who are involved in caring for their aging parents is that gender becomes a basis for which responsibility is determined. Furthermore, a sibling’s age, birth order, marital situation, employment history, availability, proximity, and financial history come into play too. For instance, a daughter is more likely to be the caregiver while the son handles financial matters or legal issues. The daughter who is a stay at home mom will likely be the primary one involved versus a son who works full-time and lives a greater distance from the parent with Alzheimer’s. Of course there are exceptions to this, but generally there is little organized attention among siblings to sort out who is best to do what in respect to the numerous responsibilities surrounding a parent with dementia.

When there are two or more siblings involved take a divide and conquer approach to handling the many things that need to be done for a parent with Alzheimer’s. Figure out on how to apply a division of labor resulting in the sharing of tasks. It is necessary to talk over each family member’s strengths, skills, and life circumstances. Finding solutions without keeping score with who is doing more or less is important to avoid conflicts. Some responsibilities simply take more time and can be more complicated. Determine who is best at doing what and perhaps rotate the responsibilities to avoid burn-out. The communication process should be transparent with vital information being shared by all.

When problems and disagreements over decisions that need to be made occur and can’t be resolved then outside consultation with a professional such as a geriatric care manager can help in sorting out what to do.

Gary Kozick, LCSW