Making Sense of Sibling Responsibility for Family Caregiving

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Abstract

As the population in the United States and around the globe ages, families are faced with decisions about caregiving for elderly parents. Research suggests that daughters often take on these stressful caregiving responsibilities, with varying levels of help from siblings. In this article, we examine these sibling relationships within the caregiving context, considering the ways in which siblings negotiate the division of tasks for elderly parents and make sense of siblings who provide little help in caregiving activities. Our content analysis of interviews with 25 family caregivers indicated that there was little negotiation of caregiving tasks. Furthermore, family caregivers make sense of sibling participation in caregiving in three ways. First, some caregivers account for caregiving as an individual activity for which they are especially suited. Second, some caregivers see caregiving as stemming from values about family life, but excuse nonparticipant siblings by defining them as outside family boundaries. Finally, caregivers with strong family values who could not make sense of siblings through an exclusionary frame engaged in verbal backtracking during the telling of their stories as a way of making sense of personal caregiving responsibilities.

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