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The Daily Dish Relationships

What Does a Family Do When One Sibling Is Doing all the Work for Elderly Parents?

The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Giacinto Gorga is living with Teresa as she takes care of him after a health scare.

By Marianne Garvey
Teresa and Joe's Dad Is Not Happy With Joe

The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Teresa Giudice and her brother are at war over the care of their father, Giacinto Gorga, who is now back in the hospital due to a hematoma in his stomach. She says taking on most of his care has been "very exhausting," but Joe is arguing that running his business is taking up all of his time so he really can't be there to deal with his dad on a daily basis.

Giacinto also moved in with Teresa and her four daughters, Gia, 17, Gabriella, 14, Milania, 12, and Audriana, 9, following the passing of his wife, Antonia Gorga, in March 2017. Teresa has been caring for him daily, while Joe sometimes doesn't call him for a week (according to Giancinto, who was pissed off at Joe for not being in touch every day.) "Shame," he told Joe after he failed to visit for two weeks in a row.

"My business takes all my friggin' time, is he gonna pay my bills? What am I gonna do, just give it all up?" Joe asked Teresa.

What can you do when one adult sibling is doing the heavy lifting when it comes to caring for an elderly parent or parents?

Research shows that one sibling usually shoulders more of the burden in 90 percent of families. Care reports that because each sibling is brought up with a different relationship to the family, they'll have different expectations of how they should care for their parents and what their own responsibilities are. 

The report says that the child who "felt most loved by the parents or the one who self-identifies as the 'good' son or daughter might be more likely to take on the primary caregiver role. The child who took the most browbeating, or who feels like a disappointment, or who feels ignored would be less willing to extend themselves to a needy parent."

But for some, the burden can become so big, their own life falls apart, which Joe is trying to prevent. Things can get ugly when it comes to dividing care and there's no one solution that will work for all families. "Every family is different, so every family has to work out the best arrangement for them," Care reports.

It often helps if one can clean, another pays the bills, and one can handle doctor appointments, but "any sibling who actually lives under the same roof as elder family members will, of necessity, provide more hands-on care."

The report suggests that in the interest of fairness, "that sibling might be compensated financially. Or, the other siblings might contribute their vacations to move in with the parents and to permit the caretaker child some respite."

The best way to determine who does what is to communicate and try not to fight. Remember, "all the sibling resentment you dealt with as a kid comes roaring back at this time. This is the time when power struggles in families come to the forefront."

If the talks fall apart, siblings can always call in a a third party senior care advisor to mediate.

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