IntroductionA national study of U.S. family caregivers, sponsored by the Home Instead Senior Care®network, shows that the dynamics of family relationshipscan thrust one sibling into the role of primary caregiver The implication is that sibling relationships and caregiving quality suffer when there are not effective family processes or dynamics in place to help brothers and sisters make successful decisions, equitably dividefor an aging parent. This can create an “anything you the workload and build a caregiving team.can do I can do better” tug and pull between brothersand sisters who should be working together for the In response, the Home Instead Senior Care networkbest interests of their senior loved ones. has developed The 50-50 RuleSM (www.solvingfamilyconflict.com). The 50-50 Rule refersThe study, conducted by The Boomer Project, included to the average age when siblings are caring for their711 adults ages 35-64, with living siblings or stepsiblings, parents (50) as well as the need for brothers and sisterswho said they either currently provide care for a parent to more equitably share the planning responsibilityor older relative, or did provide care in the past 18 (50/50).months. The stakes are high – sibling relationships and theThis inability to effectively work together often leads quality of their parents’ care are at risk. But withto one sibling becoming responsible for the bulk of new approaches and a focus on building better familycaregiving (true in 43% of families) which can contribute relationships, caregiving can make families stronger.to a deterioration of sibling relationships.Three key factors, more than any others, will determineif relationships between the adult children willdeteriorate, and whether the quality of care to theparent will be compromised. Those factors are the adultchildren’s ability to make important decisions together;their ability to divide the caregiving workload; and theirlevel of teamwork. The lower the self-reported scoreson these measures, the lower the overall grade theygive themselves and their siblings in working togetherto provide care to their parents.Forty-six percent of caregivers who say their siblingrelationships have deteriorated say their brothers andsisters are unwilling to help.Furthermore, survey participants were much morelikely to give themselves excellent ratings for importantpersonal caregiving traits than they were their brothersand sisters.
Sibling CaregivingDynamics• Among a group of siblings, on average, the primary role. The youngest siblings surveyed are the most likelycaregiver is a sister, age 50, who has been providing care to describe themselves as the ones with the closestfor an 81-year-old mother for more than 3.5 years. relationship with their parents.• Care is not shared equally. In 43% of • The adult child who assumes thefamilies, one sibling has the responsibilityfor providing most or all of the care for Primary caregivers role of primary caregiver most often describes his or her traditional role inMom or Dad. In only 2% of families, the spend 19 hours the family as the “responsible one” andsiblings split the caregiving responsibilities “the organizer.”equally between them. In all other a week providingfamilies, caregiving is shared based upon care, compared • Caregiving arrangements amongstskill sets or some other criteria. siblings occur more by happenstance with four to five than by careful consideration of what• The sibling who is the primary familycaregiver reports putting in nearly hours a week each is best for the siblings or the parents receiving care: 27% say the caregivingfour times the hours of care than provided by their arrangement with their siblings is “bytheir brothers and sisters (on average, default” and 25% say it is based onprimary family caregivers provide 19 other siblings. “proximity.”hours of care per week versus four tofive hours of care provided by their other siblings). • Family caregivers with siblings are most likely to perform tasks for their parents that include emotional• Nearly two-thirds of youngest siblings (64%) say support; advice and guidance; companionship;they are the primary family caregiver, while only 57% of transportation; and assistance with groceries andoldest siblings and 49% of middle siblings say this is their errands. How is caregiving divided between you and your siblings? 43% One brother 18% Two or more 16% We participate 6% We take turns 2% We divide 15% Some other or sister does siblings share based on our with caregiving caregiving arrangement most or all of responsibilities, skills tasks equally the caregiving with one or more much less involved
Impact on SiblingRelationships• When it comes to caregiving, there is a feeling among siblings that “anything you can do I can do better.” Survey participantswere much more likely to give themselves excellent ratings for important personal caregiving traits than they were their brothersand sisters. Following are the excellent ratings survey respondents assigned to themselves and their siblings, respectively: reliability(73%; 27%); communication skills (57%; 24%); and empathy (51%; 23%).• Just as the effectiveness of the caregiving team relies on three primary factors – ability to make important decisions together,division of workload, and teamwork – so does the quality of the sibling relationships. Caregivers who rated their sibling teamhighly on these three key issues are seven times more likely to say their relationships with their siblings have improved (instead ofdeteriorated) as a result of caregiving.• The overall effectiveness of the caregiving team impacts quality of sibling relationships. More than one-third of respondents(36%) who give themselves and their siblings average or below-average overall caregiving scores report that their relationshipshave deteriorated as a result of providing care. Conversely, 69% of caregivers who give themselves and their siblings above averageoverall caregiving scores say their relationships with their siblings have improved as a result of caregiving.• Among those survey participants who say theirrelationships with their siblings have deteriorated as a resultof caregiving, the most common reason given (46%) is thattheir “siblings are not willing to help.” Of those who saidtheir sibling relationships have improved, almost all said their Caregiver Traitscommunications with their brothers and sisters are better My Siblings’ Abilitynow.• Three out of four primary family caregivers say theirtraditional family role has changed since becoming a caregiverto their parent. One in five (19%) says he or she has“become the parent now,” and about one in seven (14%) sayshe or she “is more responsible.” Financial Management (Percentage is based on highest importance or highest ability ratings.) SURVEY METHODOLOGY The Boomer Project (www.boomerproject.com) conducted an online survey of 711 U.S. adults ages 35-64, with living siblings or stepsiblings, who said they either currently provide care for a parent or older relative, or did provide care in the past 18 months. Almost 60% of the participants identified themselves as primary caregivers; the remaining respondents said they provide care too, but not as their families’ primary caregivers.
Quality of CareInfluencers• Adult children say the most important characteristics • Primary family caregivers who indicate they personally takefor a caregiver are patience, reliability, a positive attitude, on more responsibilities, including helping with errands andempathy and good communications skills. Caregivers medication management, are the same individuals who saysurveyed give themselves the highest ratings for reliability their family is poor at making important decisions together,and communication skills.They score themselves lowest for dividing the caregiving workload, and teamwork.patience, financial management skills and medical skills. • Nearly a quarter of survey participants (23%) say the one• Four in 10 adult children (42%) give themselves and their thing they would change about how they approach the caresiblings below average grades for their ability to divide the of their parents would be to encourage their brothers andcaregiving workload. More than a quarter of caregivers (28%) sisters to help more.say they and their siblings earn below average grades for theirteamwork in providing care to their parents.• The overall effectiveness of the entire team of siblingcaregivers is directly proportional to three key factors: 1) Their ability to make important decisions together; 2) Their ability to divide the caregiving workload; and 3) Their level of teamwork in executing/implementing this workload.The higher the self-reported scores on these measures,the higher the overall grade the caregivers typically give tothemselves and their siblings on working together to care fortheir parents. Conversely, the lower these scores the morelikely caregivers are to report problems related to caregiving, Caregiver Team Ratingsincluding the deterioration of relationships with their siblings. How do you rate you and your siblings on each of the following with regard to providing care to your parents? (% reflects number giving themselves the highest possible rating.)This direct correlation is demonstrated by these trends: • More than two-thirds (68%) of caregivers who give their families the highest ratings on their “ability to make 28% Our willingness to help each other important decisions together” also give their families the 27% Our ability to make important decisions together highest overall ratings for working together to provide care. 24% Our ability to communicate openly • On the other hand, seven in 10 caregivers who say their 23% Our ability to work together families fail at their “ability to make important decisions 22% Our teamwork together” also say their families fail in their overall ability to 22% Our consideration for each other’s ability to help work together to provide care. 16% Our ability to divide caregiving workload