Reports by caregivers indicated that siblings were overwhelmingly the most important source of interpersonal stress.”
—from a study by sociologists J. Jill Suitor of Louisiana State University and Karl Pillemer of Cornell University
When I read that I’m glad I was the “only child” my parents had!
Family dynamics undergo a major change when siblings are called upon to be caregivers to their aging parents. Not necessarily for the benefit of the family unit.
One of the major sources of contention is the inequitable assignment of responsibility to the aging parent.
It’s reported that in 99.9 % of cases studied, one of the siblings takes on most of the caregiving responsibilities. Ouch! And, the others are fine with that. Of course!
Where’s the rallying around? The support? Would it surprise you to know that the primary caregiver is a woman? Why wouldn’t negative feelings crop up among siblings? Before there may have been all warm and fuzzy toward each other. Now they are adversaries.
It may also be no surprise that the siblings who do less are the ones who are favored? For the life of me, that’s a dynamic I’ve never understood.
For those old enough to remember…it reminds me of an old comedy show called the Smother’s Brother’s. One brother would always look at the other with a look of resigned acceptance and say, “Well, Mom always liked you better!”
It’s also no surprise that when we move into the caregiving role, we regress. We can go from the accomplished adults we’ve become to reenacting childhood scripts. Old feelings, we thought were buried are brought to the surface. Childhood and the traumas are often played out again.
You may also witness the prodigal sibling. The one who moved far away to live their dreams. Unthinking parents may make the biggest fuss over so much as a phone call while you are changing their diapers!
So what can you do to survive with your sanity intact? If it makes you feel better, siblings report that deep down they are glad they have each other. They look at the “only child” as being at a tremendous disadvantage.
Things To Do To Keep Siblings From Homicide
***keep everyone informed
***listen to all points of view
***have family conferences
***get counseling when needed
***vent to friends who have walked the talk
***seek help from local caregiving agencies
***learn to function alone if necessary
***benefit from each other’s strengths
For siblings who live close to the aging parents, this is the most helpful. Find each other’s niche.
There will be one who enjoys shopping. Fine. That’s their role. Another will take housecleaning duties. Someone else likes being chauffeur. Then, hopefully, there’s the sibling, who at heart is a doctor or nurse. They will be more hands-on, so to speak.
Above all, communication is your ally. Use it. Appreciate each other. And remember, if you were an “only child”, you wouldn’t have the sibling stress. But, you would be looking after your aging parents all by yourself! in home care toronto