Why am I writing about this? I’ve been there— and it was a bumpy ride...

A glimpse of some of the book’s stories and insights, each with something to tell us about ourselves.

Advice on Sibling and Family Dynamics

Organizations and websites where a family caregiver or siblings can get help.
















They're Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parent' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy - by Francine Russo   Amazon | Borders | Barnes & Noble
       Random House | Indie Bound

“...a stunning book about one of the most complex but ignored times of human transition... unique in the field of close relationships…"


Pauline Boss,  Author, Ambiguous Loss (Harvard University Press) 

"...Not to be missed ...More than a how-to book, this groundbreaking work illuminates a difficult stage of life..."

 Library Journal  

Francine answers questions about her new book.






In the tradition of Francine's Time magazine column "Ask Francine," this blog will have frequent responses from reader submitted questions (see bottom of page, or, click here to submit your own question or sibling story), tips on how to maintain healthy sibling relations, and anything else that's on Francine's mind at the moment. Your comments are encouraged, and welcome to the blog!


Guest Blog: Money Caregiving Fights -- and How to Cool Them Off

If money is the number-one issue that breaks up marriages, then it's no surprise that it wreaks havoc on caregiving families. The "you never" and "why do I always have to" statements catapult between family members -- and some of these wounds never heal. How do you avoid the most heated caregiving fights -- or at least cool them off?

Strategies to Cool Caregiving Tempers:

1. Bring in the professionals.

When it comes to money issues, rely on a professional to keep everyone on the "up and up." If you need to consult an elder law attorney or find it wise to appoint an outside trustee or mediator -- do it. Getting professional, unbiased advice regarding your elder's finances lends an air of authority and openness for all involved members. It's also better for an outsider to the "bad guy" if tough decisions need to be made.


2. Set up a designated "money talk" time and stick to it.

Plan weekly or monthly money talks with family members who need to be consulted. Get everyone together or on speaker phone. E-mail or fax documents, if needed, and be sure to keep the meetings productive, with clear-cut goals. Once the call is over, it's over. Go back to being sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. It's important to remember the old adage: Handle things efficiently -- and people effectively.


3. Give family members a chance to share their concerns and offer choices.

Most of us don't like being told what to do, so allow others to have some say in how they participate. Share your caregiving needs (financial or otherwise), but then allow others the opportunity to brainstorm and help come up with solutions. Be open to new ideas and new solutions.


4. Let go of trying to get other family members to understand how you feel when it comes to financial concerns -- save that for your caregiver buds.

Instead, figure what you and your parents want or need and ask for it. Be specific. Then have a Plan B. If your family members can't provide what you need, who can? Choose not to harbor resentment. If a family member can't do something for you, then move on and find someone who can.


5. Know when you need to vent.

All family frustrations can't be solved. Your brother's not going to give up vacation time to come watch Mom no matter how much you plead. Sometimes you just gotta let off some steam. How? Call a caregiver buddy and ask if you can vent for five minutes. Set a timer and let it rip. Then, change the subject. Talk about a movie to watch on Netflix, or about how you finally got around to joining the Y -- anything that's not related to caregiving. Turn off the caregiving -- and turn on your life. And if you don't have a friend who'll be a good sounding board for your caregiving frustrations, consider consider an online support group for caregivers where you can connect with others who know exactly what you're going through.


6. Come up with a family slogan.

Remember who you are by coming up with some cheesy catchwords that remind you that you're all in it together. Whether it's the Four Musketeers or Dad's Fabulous Girls, slogans have a way of reminding us that we're a team.


7. Sometimes money issues cause deep family rifts.

One member may want to make amends while another stays mad and even stops communicating. It's sad, but it happens. So what do you do when all else fails? Lovingly detach. It's not ideal, but when your situation is so painful that it's tearing you up, then it's time to step back and let go for awhile. If you've made every effort to make contact and ask for a truce but your efforts are blocked, then step back. Choose not to dwell on the hurt. Choose to reach back to a better time and remember the way you used to be together. Sometimes people need space, and sometimes that's enough to at least begin the healing.

 by Carol O'Dell Caring.com contributing editor


Carol O'Dell is a contributing editor for Caring.com, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. If your family is looking for ways to afford senior living, see 8 Smart Ways to Pay for Assisted Living.



“Sibling anger reaching crisis point: Help! “

Dear Francine,

My Dad’s in a nursing home after several strokes and also has some dementia. I am the youngest, with a brother and 3 sisters. When my father got ill first, I went a little bit crazy & out of shock & fear, I tried to do everything (visit as often as I could, took time off work, spoke to all the doctors, nurses etc).  I think I felt that if I threw everything I had at it, I could somehow 'fix' this awful thing that had happened to my Dad. It was only when I became ill myself & my own doctor advised me that I needed to stop & try to accept the big changes that had happened did I really listen.

This happened about a year ago, and my siblings and I set up a system where those of us who are living a distance away take it in turns to visit my father at weekends. My brother, who lives nearby, I believe, visits my father once or twice a week during the week.  Then   whichever of us is scheduled visits on weekends. But sometimes we just can’t get there or swap with someone. I feel we are all nearly 'afraid' to him because we think he will feel like we are not doing out duty.

With Dad's dementia, while he does still know us, there are times when someone could go in to visit him ten minutes after I have left & he would tell them that I hadn't been there at all.  I think my brother sometimes believes him, and has started 'checking up' on us. And everyone is complaining about each other on the sly. I have suggested a few times that we have a family meeting to discuss matters but no one else seems to be interested. I feel like we're just waiting for some event that will blow everything up & have us all fighting.   Help!

Dear DeeDee,
There is way too much guilt being flung around in your family. Do give yourself a break. You sound like a caring daughter, and inflicting guilt on yourself just makes you feel bad. Inflicting guilt on others usually makes them want to defend themselves, often by getting angry at you. And everyone getting angry with each other serves still another purpose. You all get to focus on who’s doing or not doing their “duty” instead of on the awful reality that you are losing your father in a long, sad process that you are helpless to change. Also, dementia is a huge challenge and tests families more than any other kind of illness.

But the situation is probably not hopeless. You do need a family meeting, but it needs to be called and led by a trained professional. Is there someone in the nursing home who could bring you together? A social worker or a clergyperson? Is there anyone in your family circle whom everyone respects? Maybe that person could suggest a meeting. At the very least, you could consult a family therapist and try to get one or more siblings to go with you—or go alone.

It’s very rare for siblings to share eldercare equally. In the families that get along best, sisters and brothers realize that each does what he or she can, given their lives and responsibilities. It sounds as if  your family shares responsibilities more than most. What’s lagging behind is your appreciation and compassion for each other. Start by showing some to yourself.



Need a good laugh? Rush to see this play—about one family (just like yours) going (hilariously) at each other over a dying parent

Why it's called Hanky Panky, I don't know, but this dark Comedy by Vicki Vodrey out of Kansas City, is on for a few more nights in New York as part of the Midtown Inernational Theatre Festival (MITF): Sun July 24 at 8:00 pm and Tuesday July 26 at 8:00 pm at the Main Stage Theatre at TBG Arts Center (312 W 36th Street, 4th floor W) Call 866 811 4111 or at www.midtownfestival.org

You've seen it. You've been there. The family gathers in the hospital or hospice room around the dying parent. No one knows how to act. Everyone acts out. Old history bursts forth like spring weeds. The dysfunctional younger brother gets drunk. The uptight over-responsible older sister excoriates the others. The inlaws are clueless or trying to run the show. And the poor hospice workers are caught in the middle.

The playwright gets it just right...including the fear and pathos that is driving all the shenanigans. Richard  Dines directs at a headlong pace, and the cast is right on. Funny, funny, funny...and then it strikes at the heart.

Francine Russo




A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BAR…. How Companies Can Help Aging Seniors, Boomer Caregivers, and Their Siblings Deal with a New Family Passage

 A woman walks into a bar—after work.

True story. …well… except for the part about the bar.

She needs a drink…bad! But, instead of lifting a glass or three, she goes home and calls me, a consultant on family dynamics in the multi-generational Boomer/Senior family.

“I’m desperate,” she says. “Every day after work I go to my Mom’s and help her out, and I have to spend the night because my own house isn’t close enough. My job is so demanding that I’m overwhelmed. I’m stressed and can’t focus. Some days it’s all I can do to drag myself into work. My mom won’t let me hire anyone; she only want me. And my brother is useless. I feel totally on my own!

This woman, whom I’ll call Julie, is just at the start of what will be a long journey in which she will confront not only huge emotional and practical issues around eldercare but dilemmas over finances, legal powers and much, much more.

Julie is your prospective client. She is one of the 44 million people in this country taking care of a parent or older relative. That number, growing larger every day, presents huge opportunities for companies that serve the Boomer/Senior populations.

In researching my book, They're Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents' Aging, I identified a family passage that's new for Boomer children and the seniors who are their parents.  It comprises a period of up to a decade in which adult children, their siblings, and their parents have to interact intimately and intensely and make decisions together about how to meet the needs of the aging parents—in ways that will also work for the adult children and their siblings

FAMILIES HAVE NO MODEL for how to do this: They are desperate for guidance on how to interact with each other and to make decisions in many areas:

            °ELDERCARE... including

                        Home Health Aides

                        Senior Living Options

                        Technology, Home adaptations and many other areas


            ° MEDICAL  DECISIONS, including

                        Choices of drugs and devices

                        End of Life treatment



Who should have a parent’s legal powers when the need arises—and  how those powers should                          be  used 

                        Estate planning and inheritance issues

For companies in the aging arena, these family dilemmas present opportunities to present themselves as having this desperately needed expertise. I like to help them reframe these family conversations in constructive and productive ways that also position these companies as thought leaders.

The need is desperate. The prospects for addressing it are huge.









That’s me “WOMANING UP” again with my parents. What about my BROTHERS?

Dear Francine,This is my 3rd time 'womaning up' to the issues in my family and for whatever reason, I get all the responsibility, I’m the youngest of 6, and my siblings only enter the room when there are funds to be divided up.   It's been a real eye opener for me on many fronts, these surreal experiences called 'daughters duty'.  L.


Dear L.
When it comes to caring, will “boys” be boys? Sure, many will—if you let them. Others will be devoted caregivers.  But I’ll come back to that later because the most important player in this picture is you.

You say “for whatever reason” you are the one to do this. That ‘whatever’ is huge, and it may pay you to think on it and fill in the blank. Possible reasons? Your role may always have been that of the “responsible” one or the kid closest to your parents or the last kid—who got more attention and money (a common scenario) and is resented by older siblings. The real trick is to understand why your’re “it.”  What do you get out of it? Feeling you’re doing the “right” thing? Being a “good person” or “good” daughter? Something else? There could be many complex and overlapping answers, often not obvious. Once you’ve got a handle on them, you’ll be on the road to changing the situation—if you really want to.

Now back to the boys. All of us, not just boys, slip into automatic when we’re with our families. We slide into the roles we had when we were growing up: the responsible sister, the clueless brother, the bossy one, etc. Changing such deeply imprinted roles is tough. It requires people to become conscious of them and then for somebody in the family—maybe you—to start behaving differently. Because when one person in an interaction doesn’t play their usual part, that provokes a different response from the others.

So if you girls just keep keeping on’, the boys will have little impetus to change. But I have seen lots of “boys” become caring men, brothers and sons. Sometimes they do it in response to circumstances, or to powerful new feelings evoked by aging and mortality, or maybe in response to new expectations or behavior from a sibling.

You are right: this passage is a real “eye-opener,” and the insights you get now can be a real opportunity to grow—for your brothers and sisters—and for you.