Factors that affect siblings caring for aging parents


When a sibling wants to be worshipped, others may withdraw from caring for an ageing parent

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

Lately, I've been reading widely about ageing in place. This is the phenomenon of elderly people spending all their senior years - and departing this world - in their homes and environments they're familiar with. Homes for the aged are a pretty recent thing in Kenya and other parts of Africa. We are used to our parents ageing, mostly, in our rural homes.

In the past few years, I've been there and done that. I have found out that 10 factors affect siblings who are caring for parents who are ageing at home.

Sibling rivalry/competition

This is the most common factor and it can immensely impact the quality of care parents will receive from their children. When siblings are pulling in different directions - and pulling out each other’s hair - the person that suffers the most harm is the parent, who’s the collateral damage caught in the crossfire.


Siblings may have come from the same womb and may have been nursed by the same silver spoon, but their destinies are as disparate as Jacob's and Esau's. Some siblings will be ne'er-do-wells. Some will have the Midas touch. C'est la vie.

Attitude of royalty/righteousness

This refers to the habit of some siblings to feel they are richer and/or holier than others. When a sibling lords it on others, resentment will build. A royal sibling may be tolerated, but rebellion will foment.

When a sibling wants to be worshipped, others may withdraw from caring for an ageing parent. And, in such situations, the way to go is all hands on deck.

Being unequally yoked

This means siblings may have different sets of beliefs or ideals. And this doesn't mean some siblings habour ill toward their parents. They have good intentions, but these religious beliefs or elderly caregiving methods may run counter to those of other siblings.

Acting in bad faith

Let's face it. Some children will act in bad faith. It could be due to angling for inheritance or they are just the seeds that fell by the thorns and have now returned to haunt their ageing parents.

Parenticide is on the rise. And most of the victims are elderly people who are standing in the way of greedy children.

Wilful negligence

This is knowing the right thing, knowing how to do it and having the mental and monetary wherewithal to do the right thing for one's parents, yet choosing to turn a blind eye.


There are children who may feel they were mistreated by a parent. Thus, when it's time to care for this elderly or unwell parent, the wronged child checks out; physically, financially or emotionally.


There are children who may not care about what's going on in their parent's lives. This child hasn't been wronged or abused. And they have the wherewithal to bear this responsibility. But still, they duck the responsibility like those paper bags containing doo-doos that used to be street kids' weapons of choice.


Caring for an aging or sick parent is fraught with burnout. Nobody hardly talks about offering support to children who are the primary caregivers. They are just expected to uncomplainingly carry the back-breaking responsibility.

Long distance

This is an obvious one. Some of us live and work in far-flung districts and in the diaspora. Though we may desire to be with our parents, it is not always possible due to work and family commitments.

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. But, when you are caring for a parent, distance causes the heart to grow sorer and unbearably wearisome.