MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis

Feature Articles - Aging


Adult son helping elderly fatherSiblings should work together to help aging parents

Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, Cape Girardeau County, University of Missouri Extension


Caring for aging parents can be a difficult situation, especially if one adult child does more of the caregiving. Although it may feel unfair, it is practical to have one person who takes the lead, but that person should still involve other siblings.


The following questions may be helpful in deciding who should be the leading caregiver:

  • Who has the right temperament?
  • Who is close in distance?
  • Who can juggle caregiving with their own family and job?


According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, the “typical” caregiver is a working 46-year-old woman who helps her parents about 20 hours a week. Some caregivers live with their parents, while some live nearby and act as chauffeur, shopper, home health aide and first responder. Others may supervise parent’s care from a distance, spending hours on the phone doing paperwork and communicating with doctors, insurance personnel and nursing home administrators.


The responsibility for caregiving belongs to the whole family. The need to provide care may happen suddenly or it can develop slowly. One person does not have to take all the responsibility. Every family member can help, even those who live far away.


If you are the primary caregiver:

  • Talk to everyone involved before making a major decision. Go over options.
  • Remember you are not changing roles with parents—treat them with respect.
  • Think about how siblings can assist you.
  • Don’t confuse good care with happiness. If your parent had a grouchy personality, do not expect them to be cheerful now.
  • Ask for help or assistance from siblings, do not get caught in the idea that you should not have to ask.
  • Investigate services in the community.
  • Focus on the satisfaction you feel being there for your parent.
  • Remember to care for yourself and maintain your health.


If your sibling is the primary caregiver:

  • Let your sibling know that you care.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Call your parent(s) often.
  • Ask what you can do and notify the caregiver in advance when planning to visit.
  • Lend assistance by using the Internet for ordering services and medicines.
  • If you sense burnout, be sympathetic.
  • Encourage caregiver to take a vacation and organize other family members to take over.


Source: Russo, F. 2011. Siblings working together for their aging parents. Work and Family Life, March, p. 4.


University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri

Last update: Friday, April 15, 2016