How to Get Siblings to Help Pay for a Parent's Care

Last updated: May 29, 2009
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Okay, it's time to tackle an especially hot topic: How do you get your siblings to help share the costs and work of caring for your parents? Usually what seems to happen is that one sibling, sometimes two, is identified as having the time and flexibility to do the bulk of the care. Sometimes this is because she (yes, it's usually a she) lives closer, sometimes because she's not working in order to run her own home and take care of her own family.

But as we all know, when responsibilities, financial or otherwise, aren't shared fairly, resentment and bitterness are the natural result. Here are some suggestions from users and others in the caregiving role for how they've dealt with this touchy topic.

1. Make a list of tasks that need to be done. This should include absolutely everything required to keep your parent living safely. In addition to day-to-day tasks, it should include home maintenance, transportation, and other big issues. In addition, make sure you list those organizational tasks that can be so ridiculously stressful and time consuming, such as dealing with health insurance coverage issues, pension administrators, and the IRS.

2. Convene a family meeting, or schedule a conference call or series of calls. Remember those PTA and Rotary meetings when they'd read out a list of tasks and call for volunteers? This is going to be a lot like that. Driving -- who's going to do it? Cleaning out the gutters -- who's up for that? Then list each day of the week that your parent needs care, and decide who's in charge of that day. (And yes, this means every week. If one sibling takes Tuesdays and then can't come, it's his responsibility to trade days or find a replacement.) Make sure everyone's agreeing to something they can commit to on a long-term basis. A brother who works five days a week could take Saturdays, for example, and make sure mom has an outing to look forward to each week.

3. Designate specialized tasks to those best suited. If there's a family member who's good with numbers, let him or her handle the health insurance, banking, and tax responsibilities. This is often a good area to give to a sibling who lives further away, as it can be done long-distance. If there's a sibling who has contacts in the construction industry, he or she can call in favors and get remodeling and other tasks taken care of.

4. Be sure you've tapped all your parent's resources. Your parent may not have money in his monthly budget for care, but there may be other assets--a reverse mortgage, for example--to tap. If your parent is looking at assisted care facilities, many have financial advisors who can help determine if there are assets available that can be used to pay for care.

5. List the gaps in care, the cost of paid care, and make a financial plan. This part is both the simplest and the hardest. If Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are still up for grabs, and dad can't be alone, then you need a paid caregiver three days a week. Add up the hours and you have the amount you need per week. How much of that can your parent's budget cover? If mom can afford $160 a week for one day of care, then you and your sibs need to come up with the rest. Or find a way to be there more often.

6. Share the pain. When paying for care, "fair" doesn't necessarily mean an even split. Chances are, a couple of family members with the most flexible schedules and the most free time are providing the bulk of the hands-on care. That leaves others who are getting off the hook time-wise, so it's reasonable to expect them to cough up the cash. And if one sibling is better off financially, it's reasonable to expect him to kick in more. Sadly, this may have to be spelled out clearly in a group discussion. Stories abound of siblings who are able to afford annual vacations to Hawaii yet sit in silence as other sibs try to figure out how to get mom the nursing care she needs.

7. Factor inheritance hopes into the decision process. Not to be crass, but it can help to be open about what you and your siblings are expecting in terms of future inheritance, and how your parent's financial choices today will affect what is likely to come to you. Formerly tight-fisted siblings have been known to suddenly discover they can contribute $200 a month when the alternative is selling the family home, so it won't be there to inherit.

8. Cast the family net widely. Several people told me that they've had more distant relatives such as uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, even second cousins chip in to help out with paid care. I heard a lovely story about a niece with fond memories of her aunt teaching her to play the piano who offered a monthly contribution. Ditto for around-the-house help; there might be a church friend or neighbor who remembers your mom fondly and would love to sit with her one day a week. Spread the word that you need gifts of time and money; there may be folks out there who'd like a chance to give back, but they can only do so if they're aware of a need.

This list is only the beginning -- families all over the country are coming up with creative ways to help aging family members continue to live as independently as possible. If you have a strategy to add, please share it. We could all use your help.

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8 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

about 3 years ago

my life took a turn for the worse when my husband was found dead at work ...blunt forced injuries to the head .... shortly after that my mom got sick seeing i was alone my family thought it would be good for me to move in with mom and i also agreed . My mother had copd and was under doctors care for that well one nite she was having pains in chest er is where we went and was asked by er doctor how long my mom had cancer we looked at each other in awe....well she did have stage 4 sm cell lung cancer i did all i could do and then some cognitive thinking good diet water and detox and some herbs before chemo /radiation,she survived that but then had tia. Now mind you we were getting by well with monies i had my job and she sm. cleaning biz we never asked my other siblings for help . things got worse for her had to stop working and went to work for her money was getting thin . yrs passed and we now hit rock bottom and do you know that not a one of them even pays for a bill nor do they come see her. they have me as the bad guy. they refuse to help in any way the oldest said the only way she will help is to send my mom back east to live with her....oh come on they all have awesome paying jobs and there is no reason why they should be so greedy . they think they would be paying my way ..... thats not what i am asking i am just needing them to help their momshe does have five kids not one..... well we lost our car repo we are now facing eviction and i am up against a brick wall . did i tell you that i suffer from ptsd bipolar and personality disorder.... i am under close eye of my doctors and support team ....but i need my family to step up and pitch in....god bless them

about 3 years ago

As the family's designated caregiver, I guess that I am pretty lucky. The two oldest children live 5 or 6 hours drive away, #3 child lives 45 minutes away, and I am 15 minutes away. Most of the time, things work very well. When it comes to family get-togethers is where we have our diagreements, so I consider us very lucky. Plus our parent's have enough resources to take care of themselves until they pass (they're 90 and both have AD, Dad is in congestive heart failure and more than half his stomach is in his chest cavity - 14+cm hiatal hernia). I feel for those that are struggling for resources, or that are fighting about 'things' that their loved ones have. For those that are the caregivers, at least we understand that it's the person that's important, not the 'things'.

about 3 years ago

What do you do when your siblings, all fairly successful in their careers, don't care? I came back to the state my family lives in, to discover that our mother had major memory issues and was neglecting her well being. I thoughtlessly went to my siblings and asked for help getting her to a doctor to find out what was happening to her. My siblings literally laughed in my face and acknowledged that they were aware of her state and were waiting for her to die. They made jokes about how she would die. That was the start of a year and a half battle to get help for my mother. Things I learned, the police, fire, paramedics and health care workers, among others, are legally required to report abuse and neglect even self abuse and self neglect. They are not subject to any kind of prosecution if they are mistaken, so there is absolutely no risk to them to do so. My mother lives in a town where I asked almost every policeman and paramedic for help for my mother and they all played dumb. (My mother had taken to calling 911 and wasting the towns time). The police and firemen had no problem denigrating and demeaning me, but help was not something they would provide. The way I ended up getting help was that the town got sick of my mother irritating them and sent out their elder abuse officer. Her solution was that she was going to condemn my mothers house and have her kicked out of the town. A real threat that did nothing to move my siblings. They were fine with it. After a few months, the officer came up with her next idea and that was that she threatened to prosecute all of my mothers children for abuse and neglect. That actually worked. The threat of publicizing their abuse was too much for my siblings and the day after getting this news, two of my siblings showed up and escorted my mother to the hospital. From there started the infighting over my mothers fairly small amount of liquid assets and cash on hand. In the hospital, on the day they took her in, while awaiting the psych evaluation, they were fighting in the halls about the cash in her wallet. Ironic when you consider that none of them are really short on cash. Thankfully because I was the object of their wrath for not leaving our mother to die, I stayed out of that one. So, how is it that I am to get these animals to contribute anything???

over 5 years ago

When convening a family meeting to discuss distribution of responsibilities to care for a parent, a Geriatric Care Manager can be very helpful to provide objectivity, mediation, and insight into available resources. If you are looking for a Care Manager, members of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers can be found by name and by zip code at

over 5 years ago

We moved here almost 10 years ago to help my wifes mom take care of her sister. Her sister died almost 6 years ago and Mom quickly went downhill until now she care barely get out of bed to transfer to her potty chair. My wife suddenly became a 24/7 care provider for her mom while the rest of her family won't even visit because they know we will ask them to help out with mom. I have no relationship with my wife and I took a meaningless job just so I would be close in case Mom fell or ...worse. I hope I can find suggestions on getting through this but I'm not sure.

over 5 years ago

oops. I mean "these articles" are definitely useful. My bad on grammar.

over 5 years ago

Thanks. This are definitely useful.

over 5 years ago

All of the suggestions here can be discussed and implimented with the use of a FREE service offered on You can create a free-of-charge, private, web-based community to organize family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues "“ a family's "˜circles of community' "” during times of need. This site makes it easy to coordinate activities and manage volunteers with their intuitive group calendar. Communicate and share information using announcements, messages boards, and photos too! Using this type of 'service' makes everyone in your circle aware of "what" is needed and "when" and reduces the amount of followup required to make sure all events are covered. I am not affliated with this service, but I have created a website/center for my mother to eliminate misunderstandings, or 'dates' of events for our mother!

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