Caregiving as an Only Child

As a caregiver, you’ve probably come across dozens of articles and books about how to deal with siblings. But what if you’re an only child?

When you speak with other caregivers, you might find they envy the freedom you have to make decisions about your parents’ care. After all, you don’t have to deal with lengthy negotiations or arguments with other siblings. And although you might agree that it’s nice to avoid the tension, you might look at your peers with envy. When you’re faced with making difficult decisions about your parents’ health and care, you might wish there was someone with the same (or similar) history to help you figure out what your parent might want.

Finding Support

All caregivers need a strong support network, but the good news for only children is that siblings aren’t the only source of support. In fact, you’ve probably been building your support network all your life: extended family, close friends (yours or your parents’), a spouse or partner—people you’ve relied on over the years. These people have different relationships with your parents, but don’t let that stop you from calling on them for the help you need. (Remember: Even siblings have different relationships with parents.)

In addition, you’ll find many professionals and volunteers you can turn to for help if friends are unavailable or family too distant.

  • When you need a break, look to respite care services.
  • When you need help finding resources or services, speak with a social worker who specializes in caregiver support.
  • When your parent’s illness is advanced or life-limiting, consider the options for end-of-life care. You and your parent will be able to take advantage of support that’s specifically designed to help you during this time.