If you are not the primary caregiver

If you are not the primary caregiver

If someone else in your family has primary responsibility for the care of your loved one, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute. Far from it! Caring for an older adult is more than one person can do alone. There are many ways to lend a hand (even if you don’t live nearby).


  • Managing finances, talking with the doctors, doing yardwork, running errands. If direct care isn’t your thing, address other needs. Anything you can take off the plate of the primary is a help.
  • Contributing money. If you live far away and have the means, pay for outside help to give your sibling some relief.
  • Providing emotional support. It’s often very lonely to be the primary caregiver. Having a good listener to talk to for safely blowing off steam can ease the load.
  • Giving them a break. Gift them a “spa day” where you make all the arrangements and they just enjoy. Spend some of your vacation time caring for mom or dad so the primary can have an extended rest.

“My sister would never go for that!” The biggest complaint in many families is that the primary caregiver is so particular, it’s impossible to help. True. They may have trouble letting go of control. As long as there is nothing medically dangerous about what you propose, however, you may need to assert yourself and express your right to participate in your parent’s care in your own style.

If you get resistance, consider a facilitated family meeting. Family dynamics are decades old. A counselor, social worker, or care manager can guide a conversation constructively. Families are an ecosystem and each member inhabits a niche. It will be better for your loved one, and for you and your siblings, if everyone has a chance to contribute, each in their own way.