Sunday, March 16, 2014

Adult Sibling Rivalry and Caregiving Support (Research, Video 2:32)

Most parents will say they love and treat their children equally, but this equality often becomes questioned by siblings through the years. At some point, many adults who were raised in families with one or more siblings have considered that at least one was their parents’ favorite. Siblings may discuss this topic among themselves and even with parents, especially when they feel they have been treated unfairly. But, when a parent becomes ill, the tensions relating to these feelings can create added stress to an already challenging situation.

This scenario is an example of adult sibling stress that you may have witnessed yourself on some level if you work with patients. Rosa is the primary caregiver for her mother. She lives closest to her mother, while three other adult children live in the city. Although Rosa has a job and family of her own to look after, she is the sibling caregiver who visits her mother at the nursing home most and who handles decisions. Although other siblings visit periodically, Rosa often feels frustrated and taken advantage of by them. They all say they have busy schedules as if she has no life of her own. But nobody frustrates her more than Eddie, the youngest sibling. He assumes that his other siblings should take care of his mother because they are better at that. Eddie says, “I just can’t deal with seeing Mom suffer.” Eddie is the perceived favorite child. His mother often asks about how he is doing and makes excuses for his not visiting her more. She has always babied him. Rosa still cringes when her mother makes excuses for Eddie while barely recognizing her caregiving contributions.

Research on adult siblings indicates that parents’ declining health can greatly
impact sibling relationships, particularly regarding who does the most caregiving and who is perceived as the favorite. The resulting tensions can have a negative impact on the quality of life of patients and siblings. Clearly, primary caregivers need support of other siblings, including those who live out of town.  These details should be discussed openly and resolved with assistance if needed. Solutions are often easier said than done. Readers’ suggestions are welcome.

This video features a primary caregiver sharing her concerns about caregiving from siblings:

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. I can identify with the person in this video, because I felt so frustrated at times while taking care of my mother who was ill with complications of diabetes and other medical issues. In the beginning sharing the responsiblity wasn't so bad, but as our mom illness progressed, we as siblings began to "turn" on each other, first it was the unanswered phone calls, or the clinic visits to dialysis became a challenge. I was going to school and my sister worked full time, and we were both married with our own families; since I did not work, much of the responsiblity fell on me, or my other sister who was also physically incapable of taking care of mom. Each of us had our disagreements, and our blow ups, and sometime it was because we felt mom would speak highly of one sibling and not the other concerning her level of care. My sisters and I shed many tears, and even had some times where we would completely walk out on each other because of the frustration. Consequently, I do agree with the speaker that family support is a must when one is caring for a parent or loved one; it is vital to both the caregiver and the patient.

  2. Queen Netha, thank you for sharing your personal experience. I'm sure many people can relate to it.