We are entering a very unique time in history in terms of caregiving, family caregiving in particular. Because of the drastic increase in life expectancy for Baby Boomers (81 for women and 76 for men), we’ve seen a large increase in the number of elderly citizens. The next generation, Generation X, is beginning to approach their golden years as well with their life expectancy anticipated to meet or surpass that of their parents.
While it’s wonderful that modern technology and medicine has increased the average life expectancy, it does mean that younger generations are being faced with new, unique challenges. In simplest terms, because there are more elders and seniors, there must also be more caregivers to take care of them. Enter the Sandwych generation.
Younger members of Generation X and older members of Generation Y are being referred to as the Sandwych generation, or the generation of people now balancing caring for their aging parents as well as their own families, some of which still include small children. Individuals in this group have found themselves sandwiched between two generations who depend on them, and it’s a difficult responsibility to bear.
There are many unique challenges that come with caring for an aging family member, but the challenge we’re going to discuss today is how to navigate caregiving with siblings.
Caregiving With Siblings
In some ways, it’s very beneficial to have siblings to lean on as you navigate caring for an aging parent. In fact, your siblings may be the only people who truly understand your unique situation because they are the only other people who know your family as well as you do. Caregiving can be an isolating experience, and having someone to help bear that burden can be extremely beneficial. However, we also know that it can be tricky to navigate caregiving with your siblings, especially in the beginning. Here are some tips we think will help:
Keep a Teamwork Mindset
Transitioning from the role of a child to the role of a caregiver to an aging parent is an extremely difficult transition to make, and it may take time to wrap your head around it. Remember, your siblings are dealing with the same situation. Try to remember that the idea is for you and your siblings to work together to provide the best care possible for your parents. With sibling relationships, it can be easy to slip back into childhood habits of competition, but keep in mind that you are on the same team. To establish this mindset, hold a family meeting and discuss how you all can work together to create a safe, caring environment for your aging parents.
Try to Share the Role as Evenly as Possible
Caregiving is a huge responsibility that encompasses many tasks and duties, and it’s important that, as much as possible, those tasks be divided up among the siblings. If one sibling is left as the only caregiver, this can lead to caregiver burnout and possibly resentment between family members.
Dividing the responsibility can be difficult, especially if not all the siblings live in the same city, but don’t underestimate the impact of long-distance caregiving. There are many important tasks that can be done from afar like coordinating and scheduling doctor visits, doing research about medication and treatment plans, making necessary phone calls to set up appointments or keep other family members informed, and even financial assistance. Just because someone lives out of town does not mean they can’t be an integral part of the caregiving process.
Open and honest communication is crucial in nearly every circumstance, but it is particularly paramount when it comes to cooperative caregiving. Regularly sitting down as a family to discuss scheduling, coping strategies, and emotions is important to ensure your parents continue to receive the best care possible while also maintaining a healthy sibling relationship.
It’s also important to establish open communication in order to ensure there is a space to ask for help. There will inevitably be times when the task will be too great for one and the burden needs to be shared. When those times arise, there needs to be an open and accepting arena of communication so they can ask for extra support.
While each family is as unique as a fingerprint, there are certain things many of us will inevitably face. Our parents age as we age, and someday, if it hasn’t happened already, it’ll be up to us to care for them the way they once cared for us. Family caregiving is often a difficult road, but having people around you to support you and help you as you begin to navigate these new responsibilities can make a huge difference. Our siblings may not have always been our first choice of a teammate, but they’re also often the only ones who truly understand what we’re going through. Don’t be afraid to lean on them. Hard roads always seem a little less steep when we don’t have to walk them alone.
If you or your loved one are looking for a community of those with similar life experiences, we highly recommend getting plugged in with our growing SandwYch community. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have at email@example.com.