Dear Donna:

My dad’s health has been gradually declining over the past few years. During that time, my husband, children, and I have been helping him out around the house and with transportation. I’ve also started preparing most of his meals. It’s become a near full-time role for me.

While we’ve managed so far, my siblings are always complaining about what I do and don’t do for my dad. Both live nearby but neither one pitches in to help. It’s causing friction between my husband and I as he sees the physical and emotional toll it’s taking on me.

The time has come to have an honest discussion with my siblings about their behavior and lack of support. I’m just not sure how to do that. Do you have any advice?


Sophia in Grand Haven, MI

Working Together to Support an Aging Parent

Dear Sophia:

First, know that we often hear from others in the same situation. Watching a parent’s decline stirs up difficult and complex emotions. In many families, one sibling shoulders the primary responsibilities of caregiving. That said, it doesn’t make your situation any easier. But I have a few suggestions that might be useful.

  • Create a current task list: List the tasks and errands your family helps your father with. It’s probably a good idea to separate these items by frequency. Make a column for daily tasks like assisting your dad with his showers and a column for weekly chores like lawn care. A third column can be used for intermittent tasks like transportation and snow removal.
  • Make a to-do list: Also make a list of items that you haven’t gotten around to. This can include household maintenance like painting the front door or fixing a broken handle.
  • Share responsibilities: Think through everything you do for your father. Which tasks do you want to continue doing? Which would you like help with? Your siblings may even need to take over for a while if you and your husband need a break.
  • Schedule a family meeting: Once you have organized your thoughts and needs, you and your husband should meet with your siblings. It may help to email them the list of chores you created. Let them know you are looking to work together to split up the responsibilities more equitably.
  • Invite an unbiased advisor: Some families find it useful to enlist the services of an aging life care professional. They can mediate family disagreements and assist in hiring and supervising in-home care professionals. Also known as geriatric care managers, they are experts in navigating the search for a senior living community.

One final suggestion is to consider a week or two of respite care at an assisted living center for your father. He might enjoy having caregivers nearby 24/7 and the opportunity to socialize with his peers. The break will also give you time to work through the situation with your siblings.

I hope this is helpful, Sophia! Please feel free to contact me or a member of one of our local Heritage communities if you have any questions!

Kind regards,