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Sharing Caregiving With Siblings

by Kathy Macaraeg

Does your parent suddenly need care and you and your siblings are struggling with how to manage caregiving duties? While it can be difficult to figure out a system that will work for your family, once you create a plan that includes everyone, the burden will be lighter for all involved.

Define the Caregiving Tasks

Let’s face it. There is always going to be one sibling who lives closer or has more free time – or makes more free time – who will take the leadership role. That doesn’t mean that person has to do everything all alone. If you don’t stop to figure out what needs to be done, you’ll always be plugging holes. So, right now, stop and make a list of everything that needs to be done for your parent.

Here are some ideas you may forget about. It doesn’t mean that the person responsible has to actually do the task, but they need to be in charge of hiring a provider and overseeing the tasks.

  • Schedule appointments
  • Research providers and manage application processes
  • Review and pay medical bills
  • Track medical situation
  • Manage housekeeping
  • Manage meals
  • Manage grocery shopping
  • Handle finances
  • Provide transportation or find a transportation provider and oversee the service
  • Manage personal care (including hair appointments and personal care needs)


Depending on your parent, there may be much more, including social activities. While maintaining your parent’s social life seems like something that should be relegated to the bottom of the to do list, remember that loneliness in the elderly can cause a host of physical and emotional problems.

Choose Your Caregiver Roles

This is the hard part. Everyone wants to take on the “easy” tasks like booking appointments or managing meal services, but you’ll all need to do some of the dirty work. The good news is, many hands equals less work for all.

Sit down together and realistically discuss what each of you can handle. If someone lives far away, make that person handle the research and financial tasks. While research may not seem time-consuming, trust me, it is. There isn’t a one-stop spot to find all of the services available and the application process for many government programs can be extremely time-consuming with many phone calls and follow-up.

An example of a workable responsibility split is, if there are two siblings who live close to your parents and one who lives farther away, the sibling who is farther away handles finances and research and one of the close siblings handles grocery shopping and meal preparation while the other handles transportation to medical and dental appointments and personal errands. Consider your schedules and other responsibilities and find ways to make it work for everyone.

If you all work full-time and can’t take time away from work, decide how much your parent and each of you can contribute to fund outsourcing services. I have also known families who pay the family member with the lowest income to quit their job and become the caregiver.

Caregiver Communication

If you can, decide on roles from the start so that there isn’t confusion, balls aren’t dropped and no one is stuck scrambling at the last minute. While you are deciding on roles, also decide how you will all communicate caregiving updates.

Will you share a Google drive account so that appointments are all on a master calendar and you can share a contact sheet? Will you exchange information via email, phone or text? Will you have a binder at your parent’s house with all of the details? It doesn’t matter how you share the information, it is just important that you have a consistent system so that anyone can find what they need easily.

You will also need to discuss how you will handle big decisions such as when to hire a caregiver, whether your parent should live alone, medical care, etc. I worked with a family who handled big decisions like a business. They would discuss the pros and cons and vote. Of course, there were three of them so they always had a tie-breaker.

There is no right or wrong way to work together for your parent’s care. Do what works best for your family. And remember, you are family. While it can be difficult working together and old rivalries tend to resurface, remind yourself that you are family and are doing this for your loved one. There will come a time when your services will no longer be needed and your siblings will be the family you have left. This is a season of your lives that you are all living through together.

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