Staying on the theme of one’s later years –

During the last year of journalist and author Francine Russo’s diabetic mother’s life, her aging husband and youngest daughter took care of her. Francine’s sister never asked her to do anything, and she didn’t volunteer. She got the dig from her sister — “You’re not around.” 

While Francine was a widowed, working mom with kids and a life in New York, her sister was childless by choice.

When I first learned of Francine’s story several years ago and now, I ask the question – do siblings with no kids have more expectations from family to care for aging parents?

In Francine’s case, her sister lived near their parents so maybe it was more of a geographical thing. Or more about family dynamics? I have talked to some childfree couples in a situation where their aging parents need care, and they do feel the burden goes to them first over their siblings who are parents when both live near the parents. What if neither sibling lives near the parents? Do the childfree siblings still have the expectation over the siblings who are parents?

What have you seen or experienced?

Childfree or not, in her book, They’re Your Parents Too: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy, Francine gives useful strategies that help sidestep trouble or conflict in this situation, including:

Be ready: Rivalries can erupt after decades of dormancy.

Examine your own role in the sibling dynamic.

Be alert: Is your mom or dad fanning the flames?

Don’t fall into the trap of old family roles.- boy that is a big one!

Be aware of gender differences.

Call a truce — or call in the ref e.g., a geriatric care manager, family therapist or clergy counselor — who can help you communicate objectively and distribute responsibilities in a realistic way.

Francine is so right when she writes, “Watching our parents age and die is one of the hardest things in life.”  Like every important thing in life, we need to do what we can to handle it in the best way possible–for our sake and the sake of everyone involved, in this case, our family.


Updated from original post 2010


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