What’s at stake?

There can be many reasons why this is a difficult conversation. Lack of time, living a long way away or just not wanting to face the situation can stop you talking. Other issues might include:

  • old conflicts between siblings resurfacing
  • having a family of your own to worry about
  • expectations related to your family’s cultural background
  • resistance to what seems like a role reversal
  • not wanting the responsibility
  • the difficulty of being involved in personal care for a parent or close relative
  • feeling sad about the changes in your relative’s needs.

People say to me, 'you should be talking to your sister. She should be more involved'. But she's not that approachable.

On the plus side, if you have these discussions you can:

  • know that you are making the right choices with or for your relative
  • understand what they want
  • share the responsibility
  • avoid future conflict by planning ahead.

When to talk

If you start talking early - and talk often – these conversations can become a normal part of family discussion. It’s also a good idea to involve siblings early before a pattern develops. You can always change the caregiving arrangements later if necessary.  

I should have organised it with my brother. We did have a bit of a family argument when we should have had conversations over it.

How to start the conversation

If you’re providing the majority of care or you think your relative needs more help and you’d like your family to be more involved, ask your family directly for help:

  • don’t assume they don’t want to help
  • be specific about what you want
  • listen as well as talk
  • divide up the tasks – if someone can’t help with care, ask them to do some research instead, for example
  • don’t expect total equality of caregiving and separate your relative’s issues from yours.

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Send other family members information about your relative’s medication, hospital appointments and care plans, and keep them updated.

You need to be honest about what you can and are prepared to do. It may be that paid for care is the best option. Don’t feel guilty. You’re only human and there are limits to what you can do.

If another relative is making decisions you don’t agree with, you could bring this up sensitively with them and offer to help. They may be under pressure. You could also suggest involving a third party, such as a GP or social worker.

What are your options?

A good place to start is to get a care needs assessment for your relative. This can give you an objective basis for any decision-making.

It might also help you and your fellow carers to get a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.

You could also check the benefits entitlement for the person you are caring for and also for yourself if you are a carer. If you need advice, call the Independent Age Helpline 0800 319 6789.

As a first step, look at:

If your relative has a long-term condition they may be able to get support from charities and organisations that deal with their condition.

Other options to consider include:

  • home care agencies
  • live-in carers
  • day care
  • short-term residential care
  • respite care

Sometimes if there are disputes within the family, bringing in an outsider can help. This could be a GP, solicitor, financial adviser, clergy member or a social worker.


Next steps

If you are a carer and need more support, contact the Carers Trust to find out about local services carers.org/search/network-partners


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