Sharing the Care for a Parent With Diabetes

Squabble-free siblings? You bet! Our tips make it easy to keep the peace while helping your parent practice good diabetes management.

Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by
Philip Levy, MD
More Sharing +

Do you have a parent with diabetes who needs special care: help with insulin, meal preparation or mobility? If you and your sibs tend to Mom or Dad together, odds are you butt heads from time to time. According to a study by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, only one in 10 caregivers said other family members shared the responsibilities equally or without conflict.

One of the biggest sources of strife? Often, the sibling who lives closest to Mom or Dad or has the most free time winds up being the primary caretaker. But after a while, the primary caretaker can start to resent the brothers and sisters who want to help but live farther away, work longer hours or are just too busy. Other common causes of tension include disagreements about how to proceed after a medical test for diabetes or how to handle finances.

You can get along
Luckily, you and your siblings can find common ground and keep the attention where it belongs—on giving Mom or Dad the best care possible—by following these tips:

  • Meet regularly as a family. This can be done by phone, in person or with a video-chat program like Skype. Focus the discussion on the parent, not on one another: If you take Mom to the endocrinologist, tell your siblings how the appointment went. Calmly discuss issues such as bills or chores. Even a sibling who lives across the country can help with tasks, such as paying bills online or scheduling appointments with an endocrinologist.
  • Figure out how big issues will be handled. If possible, ask your parent with diabetes who should be making decisions regarding healthcare or financial issues. Otherwise, think about whom your parent would choose to be in charge of these issues. Will the primary caregiver make all the decisions, or will another person share in the decision making? 
  • Get multiple perspectives. Parents tell their kids about different issues and thoughts, so pool information with one other. Remember that each sibling has a different point of view on Mom and Dad (it’s affected by birth order, parent/child relationship and other factors). 
  • Situations can change. Regularly discuss the distribution of caregiving tasks. People’s lives aren’t the same all the time—not yours, your parent’s or your siblings’. Your parent’s needs may change from week to week. And you or your siblings may have lots of free time now, but that may not be the case down the road.
  • Discuss your feelings as a family. Find a family mediator or counselor to help you work through these tough times. Sometimes an outside party is the best way to help address issues fairly and objectively. It will also ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

Whatever happens, try to maintain a healthy relationship with your siblings. Your brothers and sisters will likely be around after your parents have passed away. Work together today to ensure a strong bond in the future.

April 2013