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Delegating Care to Siblings


I am the oldest of five children. We have an elderly father who lives independently, sort of.  My siblings do nothing to assist Dad with his “independent” living.  By help, I mean grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and medical appointments. While they live locally, they choose to ignore Dad’s need for assistance, and it is all falling to me. We are all employed outside of the home, with none of us having large amounts of extra time. How do I get my siblings to help? Subtle suggestions have not worked, and I am tired.


Your siblings are wearing blinders, and it is working beautifully. You continue to carry the load without their help. Please also understand that they likely have little understanding of the strain that comes with assuming total responsibility for your father’s care.  It is much like not knowing how it feels to care for a newborn until you have one.

Most likely you gradually assumed more and more responsibility in caring for your father over time. This is usually the case. It has now reached the point where it is too much, and you need relief. It is time to bring in the troops.

Since you are the oldest, the younger siblings are likely used to you sometimes running the show. It is probably why they left caregiving to be your responsibility. You are at the point where you now need to delegate. I recommend that you list five tasks that need to be accomplished and their frequency. Ask each sibling to pick one and keep the one that is left over, or pick yours first. It is up to you.

You can approach the process a number of ways. Send a letter to the siblings (include this column if you feel they could benefit from it). Explain that managing Dad’s life has become too much for one person. Tell the siblings you need to share the load. List the tasks, and ask them to pick what they are willing to do. You could have a sibling meeting or conference call to discuss and select the tasks at that time.

Now take a step back, and let them step up. Do not judge the way they approach their tasks, do not check behind them, and most definitely to not redo something they have done. Never take the task back unless it is for a short time, like a vacation, and give the task back to that person when you are gone. Reciprocity is essential here. You said your father lives fairly independently, so you should also trust that he will alert you if no one takes him to the store or his appointments. 

If you all can think of caregiving as sharing a common goal, you will all have a better experience. Think of all the wonderful “Dad stories” that will come of it. Think of the positives that come with better communication between you and your siblings. Working together toward to support your father will be satisfying if each sibling does their part.

I wish you the best.

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