Sibling Disputes over Elder Care

Sibling Disputes Over Elder Care Can be Difficult to Address

In a perfect world, adult siblings of an older parent would collaborate to provide the best possible care. However, this rarely reflects reality. There are ways, though, to address sibling disputes over elder care.

Sibling disagreements come from communication, financial, workload, and other issues. Often, it is a combination of issues that need to be addressed. If they aren’t, everyone suffers, including the elderly parent.

Reasons for Siblings to Argue over Elder Care

  • Unresolved Family Issues: While growing up, siblings develop communication patterns that often carry over into adulthood. These include perceived slights, jealousies, and resentments that might remain hidden until significant issues, such as elderly care, come up.
  • Financial Issues: Elder care can be very expensive and if the older parent does not have adequate resources, the burden often lies with the adult children. Those with less economic stability may resist elder care or being responsible for paying for it. This can create friction with those who have the economical means.
  • Workload Issues: Siblings living closest to the elderly parent often end up with the most responsibility. In addition, women have traditionally taken on the caregiver role within a family, which might cause male siblings to back-off their involvement. Family caregiving can disrupt the lives of siblings most responsible for the care, which can be debilitating.
  • Control Issues: One or more siblings might dominate the decision-making process. This does not mean they are bearing the most workload or financial burden.

Ways to Address Sibling Disputes over Elder Care

  • Communication is a Key: Even though it might seem impossible, siblings need to keep in touch with each other. This can be through phone/virtual communications or even email. Siblings left out of the communications may feel resentful or assume they do not have to be involved. The adult child most responsible for the care may decide to go it alone out of frustration. However, family caregiving is a shared responsibility, at least to the best degree possible.
  • Develop a Plan: Create an action plan that provides gradually elevated levels of care based on the capabilities of the elderly parent. For example, at what point is in-home caregiving required and at what level? How will payment be made? When will consideration of skilled nursing care or assisted living be done? Build in the involvement of a geriatric professional such a social worker to provide assessments and recommendations. This can take some of the emotion out of the decision making.
  • Involve the Elderly Parent: Siblings may get so wrapped up in their issues that they do not consider the wishes of the elderly parent. The older person needs to be included in the discussions and decisions as much as possible. Otherwise, the senior herself may become uncooperative.


Family caregiving can be very stressful and addressing disputes over elderly parent care makes the situation worse. Most times, no one sibling is totally right or wrong. If compromises aren’t possible, there are professional mediators, clergy, physicians, or others who can help. Sometimes the involvement of a trusted 3rd party can make an important difference.

Learn more about addressing sibling disputes over elder care by checking out this Forbes article. Here is another article by WebMD that addresses this issue.

Check out an earlier post that addresses the related issue of helping a demanding elderly parent.

If you want to arm yourself with the information needed to motivate an elderly parent or friend to remain active and exercise, take a look at this new e-book. Also learn more about blog creator Steven Watson’s background related to helping elderly people remain active and safe by clicking here to access his Amazon Author’s Page.

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