Resolving The Problem: When Siblings Don’t Help Elderly Parents

Tips and techniques for mediation when siblings don't help elderly parents

They’re Your Parents Too!

As our parents get older, they may come to need support from their adult children more than ever. But what happens when this support isn’t divided out equally and you’re left being the primary caregiver? This article looks at resolving the problem when siblings don’t help elderly parents.

At ElWell, we’re committed to helping the helper – that’s you! We offer information, advice and support to help you navigate the confusing caregiving journey as you helping your much-loved older parent. See more of our articles or carry on reading about mediation, sibling conflict and family fights over the care of elderly parents below.

Isn’t it strange how different you and your siblings can be when you were all raised in the same household? These differences can become even more marked when you’re tasked with caring for your parents as they get older.

A stressful time for families, looking after elderly parents can be compounded by feelings of sibling resentment and emotionally-charged arguments. When all you really want is what’s best for your much-loved parent.

Let’s look at what to do if you find yourself in this position and how to cope.

Sibling Excuses And How To Handle Them

Before we get into coping strategies, it’s useful to look at where this sibling resentment comes from. Ranging from logistical to financial and emotional, there is a real variety here. Which of these are you familiar with?

When Adult Children Live Far Away

Very few adult children nowadays live around the corner from their parents. With the number of expat families on the rise, and other adult children living cross-country, is this a fair excuse to not help elderly parents?

Whilst lots of caregiving does have to be actioned by someone nearby, they can still support from far away. My brother lives in Australia, but I’m fortunate that he’s as in touch with us as he can be (my mum actually says she speaks to him more now he lives there than when he was in the UK!).

They Are Short On Time

Yes, everyone’s circumstances are different, but there can be ways people can help care for aging parents even if they’re short on time.  It’s being creative, seeing how they can take something off your plate within the constraints of what they can do. You never know, they may realise they can do more than they first thought…

They Don’t Have The Skills To Help

Looking after your senior parent involves a lot of love and a number of other factors. Just as with any ‘job’, no one is skilled at absolutely everything! There will be things they can help with. Having an honest (but not emotionally charged) conversation can make them aware of this, and then collectively agreeing on how they can support could help.

They Don’t Realise The Work Involved

This is a bit of an ostrich in the sand, and is something which you could turn around without too much stress hopefully. Invite your sibling down or explain over phone or email the level of support you are helping your parent with. Make a list beforehand, and focus on the practical side of caring for your elderly parent instead of showing your emotions (which could easily then spiral into a family fight). This could be the wake up call they needed to do something about it.

It’s Too Upsetting For Them

We know, we know – do they think caring for your elderly parents isn’t upsetting for you too? This a time for them to put their feelings on the backburner, step up to the mark and help. It’s an emotional time for everyone involved. By helping each other, you’re growing your support network and may actually find the situation easier to handle.

We understand family dynamics aren’t always easy. You might be interested in our tips for communicating with your ageing parents.

Coping With Siblings Who Don’t Help Elderly Parents

Caregivers need respite. We know that, but it seems your siblings don’t (or choose not to recognise it). Whoever is nominated as the primary caregiver will largely shoulder the majority of responsibility, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be supported.

Below are our strategies for getting support when siblings turn a blind eye to helping elderly parents.

You might be reading this thinking that there’s no way your siblings will take anything on. But there are solutions, we promise! Here is how to talk to siblings about aging parents.

Putting Aside Your Differences

It’s very hard to deal with ageing parents, and even more so when there are differences of opinion between siblings. It’s human to think we know what is right, but the most important person here is your parent.

Try not to feed on grudges or differences of opinion. If you feel resentment from them (or bubbling up in you) then try and clear the air. Being the bigger person and focusing on mediation shows maturity at this stressful time.

Working To People’s Strengths

You and your siblings have different skills – and when someone is doing something they are sure of, they feel more confident and are likely to keep doing it. Consider dividing up support based on experience and different individual’s strengths.

If someone feels more sure of what they’re doing, chances are that they will pull their weight more. This could help your sibling relationship and save you time overall too.

To do this, what might help is to first take stock and compile a list of all the things you do for your elderly parent. From driving them to appointments, overseeing their medication, selling their house. Then, reach out and ask your siblings for help.

Get a time for you all to be together (virtually or in person), run through the list and together you can brainstorm who can run with what.

Giving up control for them to lead on something can be hard. Take a step back, a deep breath and realise that by them helping with this, you have gained some time back. Yes, they may do things differently to you – but this isn’t always a bad thing.

We’ve got a financial checklist and advice for getting your elderly parents’ finances organised here. It might help you and your siblings to read it and understand what you need to do for later life planning.

Ask For Breaks!

If you’re the main caregiver, then give yourself a pat on the back. You’re amazing! We understand how exhausting this can be.

Having a break before you hit a caregiving wall – whether for a day or a week – is vital to keep you emotionally and physically charged. Don’t be afraid to ask for a break. The more advance notice there is, the better to get everyone up to speed and it planned in.

Treat It Like You Would A Job

Having clear actions, especially when it’s not just you managing the situation, can make it run much smoother.  Treat it like work and create actions or an online care calendar that you all have access to and have to update accordingly.

This allows for people’s schedules (it’s hard for everyone to be equally available all the time). Schedule regular catch-ups to see how things are progressing and share any feedback or thoughts individuals have.

Communication Techniques

Ask for help positively. Use ‘I’ messages when speaking with them instead of putting the focus on what they’re not doing.

For example, ‘I am feeling overwhelmed trying to do everything, how can we sort this out?’ instead of ‘You aren’t helping me enough”.

By being positive and assertive, you aren’t putting them on the back foot and showing what they are not doing. By asking for their input you will make them feel valued.

Make Them Aware That Your Elderly Parents’ Needs Will Change Over Time

What they need now may not be the case in six months time. Which means that the help your sibling is offering now may not be needed then either. Making them aware of this and discussing collectively how else they can lend support can help everyone.

We’ve written about products that can help make peoples’ lives easier as they get older. Take a read as it might be useful for your parent’s situation.


Family tensions are difficult to face head-on, especially during times of stress (which caregiving can be). But there are ways to resolve the problem and focus on mediation when siblings don’t help your elderly parents. This doesn’t need to come at more work to you. Instead this could actually help to diffuse family fights, provide support for you and be beneficial for your elderly parent too.

Good luck on your caregiving journey. We hope you’ve found this useful – leave us a comment below and let us know how you’re getting on!

2 thoughts on “Resolving The Problem: When Siblings Don’t Help Elderly Parents”

  1. Pingback: Understanding The Different Types Of Care Homes - ElWell - Helping you look after your parents as they get older

  2. Pingback: Tips For Communicating With Your Ageing Parents - ElWell

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