Public education program a primer on how siblings can care for senior parents

Family feuds between brothers and sisters sometimes don’t stop at childhood, but can extend into adulthood and impact the care of elderly parents. Research by The Boomer Project – a study involving 383 adults aged 35-64, with living siblings or stepsiblings, who said they either provide care for a parent or older relative, or did provide care in the past 18 months – revealed three key factors that influence adult sibling relationships and their impact on the care of aging parents:

•  The adult children’s ability to make important decisions together;

•  Their ability to divide the caregiving workload; and

•  Their level of teamwork.

The study, conducted on behalf of Home Instead Senior Care®, a leading provider of home care, has resulted in a public education program called The 50-50 Rule. The name of the program refers to the average age when siblings care for their parents, and to the need for brothers and sisters to share the responsibility 50-50.

Dr. Ingrid Connidis The public awareness program includes advice from Dr. Ingrid Connidis, a leading authority on aging, work-life balance, and family relationships who says the number one key to avoiding problems with siblings, where it concerns aging parents, is communication.

Says Connidis: “Like all relationships, siblings have a history. Whatever happened in the past dictates what happens in the present. Regardless of their circumstances, most siblings feel a responsibility to care for parents that is built from love. And that’s a good place to start – optimistically and assuming the best.”

Some additional findings from the study:

•  For siblings, the primary caregiver is a 50-year-old sister caring for an 81-year-old mother or a 50-year-old brother caring for an 81-year-old father, and they’ve been at it 3.3 years.

•  In 41 per cent of families, one sibling has responsibility for providing all or most of the care for Mom or Dad, and in only 3 per cent of families do siblings split the caregiving tasks equally.

•  The sibling who is primary caregiver puts in 14 hours of care per week, while other siblings provide only five hours.

According to the study, four factors determine if relationships among adult children have deteriorated, and whether or not the quality of parental care is compromised. Those factors are: teamwork, consideration for each other’s ability to help out, willingness to help, and the ability to make important decisions together. The study said 40 per cent of family caregivers who say their relationships with siblings have deteriorated blame it on brothers and sisters not being willing to help.

The 50-50 Rule public awareness program includes a family relationship and communication guide illustrating real-life situations. The guide addresses caregiver stress, life-and-death medical crises, financial problems, and property disputes that often become part of a family’s caregiving story.

The program has a website with information, checklists with tips for assigning care, and presentations on everything from coping with feuding families to how to plan before a crisis hits. The guide and website – – offer tips and resources.

There are also checklists to prepare sibling caregivers, tips on sharing care responsibilities, the top caregiving hot-button issues and suggestions on how to prevent family feuds.

Resources include:

The 50-50

The 40-70 Rule® – –

Home Instead Senior Care –

“Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions” –
CARP Approved