Ageing parents - Who cares?

How to avoid sibling tensions when faced with a family care dilemma.

Keren contributes:


Sometimes the tension stems from who is doing most. ‘Often the one who’s nearest does far more,’ says Thea Stein, chief executive of support charity Carers Trust. ‘The others may be doing their best but from a distance.

Caring for parents can take a huge toll. ‘It can be stressful, upsetting, exhausting. There could be a significant financial impact, as you may have to cut back on your hours or leave your job. Many carers are on antidepressants, take sleeping pills and have bad backs and knees from the lifting. Not surprisingly, the fact that their other siblings don’t see or understand that struggle can cause massive friction.’

But it’s not always about sharing the load. Keren Smedley, life coach at Experience Matters (, which specialises in midlife issues, runs courses on managing parents. ‘In families, we get entrenched in our roles,’ she says. ‘There may be the baby of the family, the favourite, the dutiful daughter. When you get together, you stop being your adult selves and revert to old patterns of behaviour, but the parents – the authority figures who used to manage the sibling relationships – are no longer in control. The whole structure of your family life falls apart and it can be unbelievably fraught – a free-for-all.’

It helps to grasp from the start that when it comes to caring for parents, adult children are unlikely to act as one. ‘You’re siblings, but you had separate relationships with your parents so you view them differently,’ says Keren. ‘One may see them as very vulnerable. The other may think they’re capable of looking after themselves.

Read this article by Anna Moore with contribution from Keren Smedley in the Mail