Caregiving and Sibling Relationships

by Nancy Wurtzel on April 27, 2016

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My two sisters and I have come together once again over the need to provide care.  This time, we are not caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease.  Instead, the one needing care is one of us.

It’s the sister in the middle, who will soon undergo a lung transplant.

Eighty percent of American have at least one living sibling and that intertwined relationship will probably be the longest lasting life connection.  It makes sense.  After all, you grew up together, share half of your genetic make-up, and had many of the same life experiences.

There’s an undeniable intensity to the sibling bond.  Unlike friends or partners, we don’t choose our siblings, yet there it is a very powerful connection. As young children, our siblings taught us vital social and emotional life skills, like how to interact with our parents, make friends, compete, work together and resolve conflict.

Jeffrey Kluger, author of “The Sibling Effect,” wrote, “Siblings are the only relatives, and perhaps the only people you’ll ever know, who are with you through the entire arc of your life.”

Yet, relationships between siblings are not always easy.

Siblings: Longest Life Connection

caregivers-caregiving-caregiver-alzheimer's-dementia-panini generationDuring childhood, siblings sometimes compete for parental attention and approval, and kids often perceive parents favor one child over others. For their part, parents either consciously or unconsciously, pigeonhole their children — “she’s the smart one,” “he’s the athletic oldest son,” or “he’s the spoiled baby-of-the-family.”

These labels can leave a long-term imprint, often causing resentment, rivalry and divisions between siblings.

Maturity and the passage of time often help heal these wounds. As siblings move into adulthood, age differences and birth order become less significant, allowing the brothers and sisters to be on more equal ground and see each other more objectively.

During these years, it’s typical for sibling connections to ebb and flow, mainly because everyone is busy with careers and families of their own.  Proximity also plays a role in how often adult sibling see each other, so relationships between siblings can become a bit rusty.

Sometimes siblings take different paths in life but will come together during a family crisis.

Siblings and Caregiving

Caregiving is one of those times that will force siblings to interact closely — sometimes as closely as when they were young kids.  It can draw siblings together or rip them apart.

What may get us through is the fact that we we grew up together.

There is a certain comfort to having a connection with someone you have known all of your life.  Someone who repeats the same family stories and jokes.  Someone who was there for family vacations, family reunions, funerals, graduations and when our parents died.

Caregiving is never easy, but the life-long bond will somehow allow us to muddle through my sister’s lung transplant.

More to follow when a match is found for my sister.  Fingers crossed.

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1 Rita Berger April 30, 2016 at 8:49 am

I have always been amazed by you and your sisters. Your bond is so strong. Hugs and prayers to all of you. Prayers for “B” that the lung transplant is successful and complication free. You are all so blessed to have each other.

2 Jude Rooney April 29, 2016 at 10:05 am

You Ogle sisters are amazing people! Each of you so unique as individuals with such love and acceptance for each other and all you are going through. I feel so honored to know you and call you friends.

3 Nancy Wurtzel April 29, 2016 at 10:10 am

Hi Jude, Just thinking about you this morning! You are so kind to read my post and for your comment…you are such a good friend to BO. Luv, Nancy

4 Susan April 28, 2016 at 9:56 pm

I love you Nancy, my baby sister, and I agree that our sibling bond is strong and powerful. We can and will get through the transplant and come out of it laughing and crying together. Mom and Dad would be equally proud and amazed by our enduring friendship and love for each other.

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