Caregiving, Some Advice for Squabbling Siblings

caregiving fighting siblings

When Children Become the Adults

It’s an ironic twist that a parent who once refereed their squabbling kids, one day becomes the center of squabbling adults. It’s also pitiful.

If you’re one of those “children” in an adversarial relationship with your brother and/or sister, here are some thoughts and hopefully helpful advice summed up in a few words.

Grow up!
And keep reading!

I know many families who have completely fractured apart because of significant disagreements about their parent’s care. One “child” aligns with another against a third etc. like episodes of Survivor. Sibling squabbles eventually mushroom into family wars with dire consequences.

Perhaps the family’s dynamics were fractured all along and the fragile nature of a parent’s deteriorating health brought out the worst in all of them.

The Designated Daughter or Good Son

If you’re the “good” son or the default daughter who has stepped up for your parent, thank you!

Maybe everything has fallen on your shoulders because you’re the closest physically. If so, your sibling(s) across town or across the globe can and should be helping in other ways. A division of labor is ideal. But you may have to assign them specific tasks.

My three cousins worked fairly well together in their mother’s care for years. Only Maggie was local, bearing the weary burden of emergency and immediate care. Her sister Jan flew in four to five times a year and many states away, their brother handled the finances.

I know Maggie sometimes resented the exhaustive day in day out responsibility of my sweet, but bona fide high maintenance aunt!

I heard an earful from Maggie about Jan and vice versa on more than one occasion, each one pleading their case to me. But underlying every one of their disagreements was the recognition that each had their mom’s best interests at heart and knew their sister did too.

You Know Who You Are

If you’re not the designated daughter or the good son, you know who you are! You know you’re too far away to run over and help Dad when he falls. You know you’re not emotionally able to offer a shoulder to cry on. And you know that your brother or sister is doing more than you are.

So step up and acknowledge that fact! Tell your caregiver sibling(s) that you realize they are in the front lines of parent responsibility while your life goes on unencumbered.

Going Solo

My brother David died in a tragic car accident before I was born; in fact my mother was five months pregnant with me when little David was killed. My other brother Jerry also predeceased me, leaving me orphaned and alone in the care of my mother. From I Will Never Forget

“I reconciled that I would rather take on complete responsibility for every issue related to my mom than to have a contentious relationship with an adversary who was undermining me at every turn.

Despite the complete support of my family…It was intimidating to yield such power and yet feel so powerless.”

I ran things solo in behalf of my mom and resented that my brother had abandoned me! I know it was silly; I just felt angry that Jerry was gone and very alone.  From I Will Never Forget

“I knew of too many families in which the dynamics between siblings disintegrated, leading to hostile, territorial wars because of splintered ideas about their parent’s care or finances.”

Most siblings do not work well together in their parent’s behalf. It’s sad but true. Kids who once played together constantly, grow up and apart. I’ve seen it too often.

If another twist of irony, the dictionary definition of Adult is: emotionally and mentally mature. I know many “adults” who act anything but “emotionally mature” when they are in a verbal war of words with their sister/brother over the decisions for their parent.

A real adult would honor the parent by making the decisions they would make for themselves if they could. And a real adult can “agree to disagree” with another, even a sibling and set aside petty differences for the bigger picture. Are You A Real Adult?

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About Elaine C.Pereira

Elaine retired in June 2010 as a school Occupational Therapist where she worked with special needs children. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, Joe. Between them, they have five children — Joe has three sons and Elaine has twin daughters-and soon-to-be five grandchildren. Elaine has a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University. Elaine is the author of I Will Never Forget and she was inspired to tell her mother’s incredible story in part to help other caregivers coping with memory loss issues in their loved ones. I Will Never Forget

4 thoughts on “Caregiving, Some Advice for Squabbling Siblings

  1. elainecp

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’m glad it helped! And a big thank you for what you’re doing for your mom and grandparents – a labor of love I’m sure!

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  3. lauralibricz

    Powerful post! I am in this position right now: too far away to help out. And I make a real point to praise both the designated daughter and the good son. My brother and sister and wonderful and they are doing a great job with everything. Nice to meet you Elaine!


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