What your sibling “ style” in caring for your aging parents?
Are you and your midlife siblings already worrying about your aging parents? Even if the problem has just come up- Dad’s bad driving, Mom burning pots, a crisis that ended one of them in the hospital with the doctor warning you to form a sibling team – check out your present teammates and see who is the pitcher, who’s the catcher and who is on the farm team and will never get to the big leagues.
Sara H. Mathews, a sibling scholar and researcher has identified five different systems of caregiving that siblings take on when jointly providing parental care. She makes a point that siblings have a choice as to whether they want to take part in parent care or any filial activity. Membership in a family is involuntary, she points out but whether you will participate as an adult is your choice.[i]
What style does each of your siblings have?
Sibling System of Caregiving
This caregiving style allowed the sibling to incorporate the assistance for the elderly parent into the siblings on going activities. This style means that the sibling is available predictable and to whatever needed to be done.
This sibling style allowed the sibling to avoid emotional support or actual services but agreed to be counted by the other sibling’s caregivers when they asked for help. These siblings can be counted on to do whatever they were asked to do.
An example would be a son who lives locally and does not want to do care but would spell his sister, who does do care, when asked.
The sibling style of caregiving is very predictable but has very narrow boundaries. This could be an adult son who tells the other siblings he will call Mom once a week at a certain time, but has no other involvement.
These siblings only render care to their parents at their own convenience. A daughter might invite her mother over on Sundays when it works out for her but not on any regular basis. A son might take Dad to the barber when he himself goes, when he remembers to do it. However, he can’t be counted on.
The sibling who takes on this style cannot be counted on to help with a parent’s care. In family of five siblings, four of them may be providing care on a regular basis but a son who has a long-standing conflict with Dad may have distanced himself completely from the father and any care of his aging parent. This does not always mean that the sibling has disassociated themselves from the siblings but does means they are disassociated from the parent.