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50+: Live Better, Longer

Role Reversal: Caregiving for Aging Parents

When an aging parent needs caregiving, the children often need to take responsibility. But what happens when only one of many siblings steps up to the plate?
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Aging in America continued...

"There's a greater likelihood today that, as a 55-year-old, you will have surviving parents, than there was say in the 1920s when both parents passed away before you reached the age of 50," says Cutler, who is also dean of the American Institute of Financial Gerontology. "This means that middle-agers, who are planning for their own older years, also have to think about their parents."

To complicate matters, one adult child of an aging parent often bears the responsibility of the parent's care alone. What factors play a part in determining who takes on the care of Mom or Dad?

"There is a gender bias in terms of who cares for an aging parent," says Lisa Hollis-Sawyer, PhD, coordinator of the Gerontology Program at Northeastern Illinois University. "It's fairly universal that we think of women as a caregiver, so their role in helping an elderly parent is not uncommon."

Another factor in determining who will take on the role of caregiver to a parent is age.

"It's also likely it's going to be the oldest," Cutler tells WebMD. "While gender does play a big part, now -- with women in the workforce -- it's not necessarily the case anymore, and age and order of birth can come into play."

But there's more to who is going to care for a parent than gender and age. Instead, siblings should consider who is the best fit.

It's selective matching, explains Hollis-Sawyer, meaning that personalities, geography -- simply who lives the closest -- and finances all play a role in determining who might be able to provide the best care.

Caregiving for an Aging Parent: Taking Charge

If you are nominated -- willingly or not -- to be the caregiver for an aging parent, dealing with the situation can be a challenge. It can be especially difficult if your brothers and sisters aren't willing to recognize their sibling responsibility.

What's the key to enlisting the help of your family to ensure the best care for your parent? Read on for tips from the experts that will help you wade through not only the family issues that caring for a parent presents, but the practical ones as well:

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