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Feature Articles - Aging

Sibling relationships and aging parents

Nina Chen, Ph.D., human development specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Adult children play an important role in helping to care for aging parents. The relationships among siblings can influence the help and support given to their aging parents. Sibling closeness can provide positive support for each other and their parents. However, sibling disunity can make it difficult to support parents. Obviously, maintaining a good relationship with your siblings and working together to help your aging parents is critical.

Open communication is the key to keep siblings working together for their aging parents. Communicate with your siblings with as much honesty and kindness as possible. Give each other time to share your own points of view. Using "I-messages" can be helpful in open communication since it focuses on the individual's own personal feelings. Avoid using "You-messages" which can create defensiveness on the part of the person to whom the individual is speaking.

If your siblings don't include you in helping aging parents, you should let them know your feelings and concerns. Let your siblings know you do care and are interested in participating in the planning process with them and parents.

Family meetings are a good way to have open communication and help solve conflicts and problems. Family meetings should include all siblings, their spouses, and other relatives who are concerned about the older people. All siblings should participate in making plans and providing support to aging parents. It is important to include a brother or sister who is difficult or argumentative, or never visits or doesn't seem to care as much as the brothers or sisters who provide emotional support. This can help avoid conflicts and arguments later.



Isbell, L., & Schmall, V. Brothers, sisters and aging parents, University of Missouri Extension (Guidesheet6747).




Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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