Sibling Relations

One sibling usually takes the lead. How can others get involved?

caregiver woman worried

Sibling relationships as they relate to care for aging parents—t’s pretty much the perfect storm of potential conflict. A dynamic that taps into long-term emotional wounds, inheritance concerns and parental/sibling life memories going back many years. In the midst of the conflict, especially if you feel like you’re the one holding all of the responsibilities, where can solutions and practical coping strategies be found?  


Let’s begin by looking at three reasons why siblings may avoid helping with caregiving:

  1. They don’t think/see that there’s a need

  2. They don’t see how they can help

  3. They are afraid of doing a “bad job” or messing up


So let’s break these down into strategic responses…


They don’t see a need. How about…

  • Send a calendar invite for specific times they can fill in.

  • Set up a regular whole family meeting (including spouses) to review the situation. Then make a date for the next whole family meeting.

  • Start a family message thread or a private family Facebook group providing regular updates and encouraging dialogue.

  • Create a shared google document outlining updates, questions and challenges.

  • Use a website like Caring Bridge or Lotsa Helping Hands to outline needs


They don’t see how they can help. How about asking them to do something specific, like…

  • Take over bill paying, banking and/or tax management.

  • Cover the cost of a bi-monthly housekeeper or helper. (One family I know had all the kids and grandkids pitch in for a year of housecleaning for their great grandma.)

  • Have a meal delivered every week (or every so often).

  • Gift a membership (massage, yoga, etc.) for the family member who does most of the care.

  • Research solutions to various needs, e.g. find a used wheelchair, the best shower chair, etc.


They might be afraid of doing a “bad job” or messing up. How about encouraging based on these perspectives…

  • Accept siblings for who they are and expect different approaches.

  • Try to respect other’s perceptions and find opportunities to compromise.

  • “Decide to believe that everyone is truly doing the best that they can. We’re all a little bit right and a little bit wrong.” – Life Coach Mary Remmes

  • Assume positive intent.


At the end of the day, we can only control how WE respond. Caregiving isn’t easy, so extra grace is hugely helpful—all around.

May you find joy in loving one another well and assuming the best

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.

Marriages Affected by Caregiving

couple laughing

Don’t let caregiving kill your marriage

No one needs to tell you that caregiving can be all encompassing, but if you are giving 100% of yourself to caregiving for your senior then what is left for your self-care? 

And, if you aren’t practicing self-care, it also means there isn’t care for your partner either. 

No one wins if you let caregiving cost you your relationship with your partner.

My dad was known to say, “It’s hard to remember that you set out to clean the swamp when you are knee deep in alligator sh#!” In the thick of it, it can be hard to see a way out. Implement these 5 practical ideas, beginning with self-care for you, the caregiver:

  1. Take 15 minutes just for you every day.

University professor and researcher, Francis Lewis suggests that caregivers spend (at least) 15 minutes alone everyday doing something for themselves. Doing so “creates a place for your peace and your joy”. Lewis says, “It might be shooting hoops, it might be calling up friends, it might be having a cup of tea, it may be walking around the neighborhood.” Whatever it is, treat yourself “like company.” Recharge your spirit with a time of meditation or prayer.  

2. Include your partner in caregiving decisions.

You may think that decisions only impact you since you’re the caregiver, but it’s likely that your partner is very much impacted by them too. Include them in decisions and ask for their practical help and if they say “no” respect that. You need your “no” respected too.

3. Be purposeful about scheduling regular time with your partner.

Once you’ve scheduled time, honor that time by showing up and being fully present, giving your  partner more than just your “leftovers”. Let it be a balanced time of listening and sharing, away from your caregiving role. 

4. Show appreciation to your partner. Regularly and sincerely.

Your senior may not be expressing their appreciation to you or for you which may make you feel like hoarding your appreciation words, as though you can keep them for yourself. Be generous about expressing gratitude for your partner, to your partner. Let them catch you praising them in front of others.

5. Connect with a caregiving community.

Investing time in a supportive community group that understands the day to day challenges of caregiving is invaluable. An outlet for your own caregiver feelings and challenges provides you support without your partner having to hold the full weight of that need. I’ve gathered a list of my favorite groups on Facebook and Reddit.  

Are you unable to see how to care for yourself? Are you experiencing the following challenges?

  • Ignoring own health problems 
  • Not eating a healthy diet for lack of time 
  • Overusing tobacco and alcohol when stressed 
  • Feeling resentful toward the older adult in your care 
  • Holding in feelings of anger and frustration and then being surprised by outbursts directed at the care recipient, other family members, co-workers and strangers
  • Feeling sad, down, depressed or hopeless
    Listed by Denise E. Flori, PhD, LMFT
    If these are your struggles, seek professional help from a counselor.

May you find joy in loving one another really well!

How to Quickly Decorate An Assisted Living, Nursing Home or Hospital Room

How to invite healing joy into your senior’s room

Does your senior’s nursing home room feel depressing? Did the balloons deflate and the flowers die after a day in the hospital? Does their room in the assisted living facility still look kind of generic even after adding a few photos on the bedside table?

If you feel that way walking in, think how they feel living there.

Sometimes we hesitate to decorate, giving these excuses:
  • My senior won’t be in this room very long.
  • The facility restricts what we add to the walls or room.
  • I don’t want personal items to get in the way of medical staff and equipment.

Overcome your internal excuses and create an atmosphere for healing and joy, even in a nursing home or assisted living facility!

Choose one of these simple products and ideas to transform your senior’s room.

  1. Removable “sweet dreams” decal on the wall in front of the bed wishes them good night
  2. Huge paper flowers/decals or removable potted plant decals (these don’t need water) fill a space
  3. Make a custom placemat with photos of people they love to use on a tray or at the table 
  4. Inspire conversation with this “Who I Am” poster and hang it with these damage free wall clips
  5. Wall mounted or desktop adjustable sunlight lamp may improve the mood
  6. Have a photo blanket made, even just lap size
  7. Put up a suction cup window-mounted outside bird feeder
  8. Put up sparkle lights around a window or door frame
  9. Set up a digital picture frame with rotating pictures 
  10. A diffuser with essential oils offers aromatherapy and a warm light. (Not recommended for shared room situations.) 
  11. Tack a beautiful  poster on the ceiling above their bed. This scene makes you feel as though you are laying in a forest looking up through the trees on a sunny day.
  12. Hanging a quilt on a wall can fill a big blank space and helps create a cozy atmosphere. These quilt hangers attach with removable adhesive strips
  13. The management of a real fish tank is too much, but can be relaxing, so why not try a lamp/virtual ocean fish tank?
  14. This temporary stick-on wall quote is a reminder to spread joy
  15.  Window suction plant pot brings the outside in
  16.  Rugs are trip hazards, but these peel and stick tiles can look like a rug.
Consider some of the benefits of temporary decorating:
  • Gives you something to do “together.” Bring some paint chips and ask which colors they like. Psychology Today says, “Some colors, like shades of yellow, are like the sunshine. They can boost one’s mood and create a sense of optimism. Shades of blue can be calming. Others, like red or a secondary color such as orange, can be jarring.” Use those colors as you choose decorations. Or ask them which quote they like better for their temporary decal or about their favorite pictures for the lap blanket.
  • Becomes a conversation starter for staff or visitors.
  • Creates a welcoming atmosphere. If the decor makes staff and visitors smile, that brings more joy to your senior’s room.

Decorating your senior’s room fills it with personalized brightness and joy. Even if you just choose one of the items above, it can have a compounding effect, which is needed in a nursing home, hospital or assisted living facility.

Want other gift ideas for your senior? Check out these 7 thoughtful presents.

Debbie McDonald is the Founder of Ways & Wane, an online platform that helps you help your aging parent. She lives in Northern California with her husband.


Your Parent Forgets Your Birthday

You didn’t expect your parent to show up on your birthday with a gift and a card.

After all, you sometimes wear a name tag so they remember your name. And yet, the first time your elderly parent

parent with dementia forgets birthday :(forgets your birthday, well, it can be painful. It amplifies the loss happening right in front of you and is a very personal reminder of the new relationship with your parent. For many people, this strikes a painful chord.

To support you in this, here are 5 ideas to help you weather the next forgotten birthday.

  1. Expect your senior to forget and mourn the loss that represents, but don’t stay in that sad place too long.
  2. Print the letter below, put it in an envelope and give it to yourself—from your parent. 
  3. Gather all the memories of times your birthday wasn’t forgotten and take time to savor those memories. Maybe take a few minutes and write them down. 
  4. Put an extra candle on your dessert, from your parent.
  5. Remember that you are loved, today, tomorrow and yesterday. 

Celebrate YOU by sending yourself this card!

The Unsent Birthday Card. . . From Your Parent

You transformed my life with your birth. Hidden in the recesses of my mind, I know it’s the anniversary of your birthday. Somewhere in my mind, I remember your birthday parties, your smiles, your fingers in frosting, the brightly colored cards, your gifts, the yellow crepe streamers, the balloons bouncing, the flickering candles. My love for you was on full display in the way we celebrated your birthday. 

Today is the same as two yesterdays ago or two days from now—I don’t know. I count on you to know what day it is. I want to celebrate this birthday for you, but I don’t know where the candles are. So will you find them for me? Will you put an extra candle on—from me to you? (You should probably light it for me too since people get nervous when I have the matches.) And then, when your wish-breath blows the candle out, know that in that hidden place in my mind, my love for you is on full display.

Happy Birthday!

May you find joy in loving one another well today and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.


Her mom’s surgery became a caregiving trial run

Exercises all the time, great home designer, smart as a whip . . . her 79-year-old mom embraced the knee surgery as a ticket to more action. Being the daughter and her mom’s best friend, Cheryl prepped to provide post-surgery care . . . and then the side effects began . . . Listen to the lively interview HERE. You’ll love these two 🙂

The One Thing You Need in Order to Always Smile at Your Mom (or Dad or MIL)

A caregiver’s super power

Why am I talking about super powers here? Because being a family caregiver is hard. You not only need healthy habits— you deserve them—in order to show up as the best version of yourself.

A key study

Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, researcher, author and perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components: 

  1. It’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.
  2. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

Dr. Emmons performed a study where all the participants were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. The second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them. The third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). 

After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on things that irritated or disappointed them.

Claim gratitude as your super power

I’m thrilled that my 80-year-old mother-in-law agreed to join me in a joint gratitude list this year! (It’s just a google doc. that we can both access.) My secret goal is to get to a list of 1,000 “gratitudes” before the end of the year, but I’m holding that loosely since I don’t want to weigh down the activity with rules. 

Read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts for beautiful writing and more inspiration about WHAT to be thankful for.

Have you ever made a point of practicing gratitude?

If not, maybe this is your nudge. There are many journals and apps which provide some structure. Some just have a spot for the date and then a few lines while others have inspiring prompts and adjectives boxes to check which may be helpful if self-awareness is difficult for you. 

I’ll tell you who is grateful for you. Your senior. Even if they cannot or will not express it, they are grateful for your kind-hearted, imperfect care in their season of waning.

So what are you grateful for today and . . . will you join me in focusing on gratitude this year?

Grateful for you,

How to Keep Track of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Your senior may not get the COVID-19 vaccine right away, even if they live in a long-term care facility. It all depends on the amount allocated to your county by the state. 

According to the CDC, once a week, the federal government

senior with daughter getting vaccinated announces anticipated allocation figures for each state. The number of allocated doses provided by the federal government is a projection and subject to change.

For instance, my county was given 3,000 doses by Jan. 13. This allocation doesn’t meet the need as our vulnerable population totals two times more than the state average. 

Keep a record of  the vaccinations with this.

The CDC is recommending that the vaccine be administered in three initial phases:

  1. Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents
  2. Frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older
  3. People aged 65—74 years; People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers.
Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents Frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older People aged 65—74 years; People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers.
What should you do next?

1. Check these resources for local information.

    1. Call your local 2-1-1 (county-funded resource information line) and ask how to get your senior a COVID-19 vaccination.
    2. Check in with your senior’s doctor’s office.
    3. Contact with your state health office and see how and where they are administering the vaccine.
    4. AARP provides state-specific vaccine information.

2.Make sure your senior’s advance directive and medical proxy form is accessible by storing it in a medical document planner. Partners administering the vaccine may require verbal, email or written consent from recipients or their medical advocate/proxy.

Number of weeks until vaccine recipient is immuneThe CDC states that with most COVID-19 vaccines, you will need two shots in order for them to work. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first one, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot. 

Keep track of your vaccinations with a medical document planner.

Download the CDC’s vaccine fact sheet for more answers.

May you find joy, even amongst the pricks. 

Author Debbie McDonald is founder of Ways & Wane and lives in Norther California with her husband.


Eight Caregiver Gifts that Cost Little But Make an Impact

Show Your Immense Gratitude

It can be complicated to say thank you to caregivers who see your senior at their most vulnerable, possibly even at their worst whether in an assisted living facility, nursing home or at home. 

They carry on with diligent care despite the circumstances or challenges.
They do what you cannot.
They are helping you honor your senior through this season.
They give so much!
How can you thank them?

Whether your senior lives in an assisted living facility, a nursing home, a small adult family home or is at home with care help, I have several thoughtful gift ideas for you to give your senior’s caregivers.

Three group gift ideas
Some assisted living facilities or nursing homes have a policy that prevents individual staff members from accepting personal gifts. However, you can give a gift to the staff as a whole. If that’s your situation, consider these group gift ideas. (Packaged separately, each of these gifts provides minimal contact.)

  1. For about $23 you can send a box of 20 healthy snacks 
  2. A beautifully packaged box of pears from Harry & David is a stylish surprise
  3. One dozen holiday bakery cupcakes (packaged separately) would be a fun treat 

Five individual gift ideas
For smaller facilities, like adult family homes or individual caregivers, you have more options:

  1. These stylish soy candles come in sets of 3 and say “What you do matters, thank you”
  2. The bottoms of these cute socks say: “If you can read this, this nurse is off duty.”
  3. A stylish keychain & poem that says thank you. 
  4. A coupon to a food delivery service like Uber Eats or Grubhub would allow them to have a meal without having to cook or go out to pick it up.
  5. A gift card to a coffee/tea shop would surely be put to good use!

Find other gift ideas by reading Seven Fun Gift Ideas for the Senior Who Doesn’t Need Anything. Whatever you do, the most impactful gift is likely going to be the note you add expressing your heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. Be more than generous with your words; they will soak in and encourage your caregiver in the sweetest of ways.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Seven Fun Gift Ideas for a Senior Who Doesn’t Need Anything

dog perfect gift for dementia patientPerfect Gifts for a Nursing Home Resident or Hospital Patient

The neighbors get a plate of brownies.
The dog gets the 10-inch rawhide bone.
Friends get a bottle of wine.
Co-workers get . . . nothing. You’re not with them in person and you don’t have their address anyway.

Your mom receives . . .  Hmmmmm. She’s hard to shop for anyway and these days it’s even more complicated. 

We hope to make things a little easier for you with seven fantastic holiday gift ideas for your senior, even if they are in a nursing home or hospital.

  1. Especially if your senior has a good sense of humor or a solid desire for mischief, these stick-on mustaches will likely bring far more entertainment than you can imagine.
  2. You can easily gift an audible book from These three audiobooks are fun:
    1. In Such Good Company” Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox By: Carol Burnett
    2. “What’s So Funny?” My Hilarious Life By: Tim Conway, Jane Scovell
    3. “Murder Under the Sun” 13 Summer Mysteries by The Queen of Crime By: Agatha Christie
  3. Have a picture of your senior printed as a canvas wall print (choose a photo from a season in their life they loved). Shutterfly and Canvas World have lots of options and they are easy to hang, especially if you include some “no damage” sticky wall hangers.
  4. How about a butterfly or frog temporary tattoo pack? How can you not smile at the butterfly on your arm? There are usually enough in the pack for the entire nursing home staff or visiting family to be covered in butterflies and frogs too.
  5. Fill out a Ways & Wane “Who I Am” printable to hang up in their room. We created one of these for my dad and it always sparked conversation with the staff who enjoyed a glimpse into his life. 
  6. This heart shaped warm/cold pillow is soft and washable. Older people frequently have cold hands so a microwaveable pillow can be a good way to warm one’s hands without trying to manage a cumbersome mitten design.
  7. A diffuser with essential oils offers aromatherapy. This compact diffuser comes with 6 different oils and has a waterless auto shut off. (Not recommended for shared room situations.) 

Maybe this year your budget allows for a nice Hallmark card. That’s just fine too! Remember, people may forget what you did or the gift you gave them, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder and president of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 

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