Study: Are Siblings Ready to Be Caregivers?

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and Easter Seals recently released a study about siblings as caregivers. The study found approximately 30 percent of siblings plan to fill the role of primary caregiver in the future.

"There is an undeniable bond between siblings which can be especially close when one has special needs, but along with this relationship comes a unique set of circumstances and a great deal of responsibility," said Joanne Gruszkos, founder and director of MassMutual’s SpecialCare Program. "For sibling caregivers, it's critical to not only set realistic expectations, but also prepare financially, emotionally and physically."

Key findings from the study showed that

  • Only 33 percent of future caregivers feel financially prepared to care for siblings and seven in 10 future caregivers worry about the cost of caring for their siblings.
  • The majority of current caregivers (75 percent) feel caring for their sibling is a full-time job, but only 55 percent of future caregivers expect that to be true.
  • Just 57 percent of current caregivers feel they receive the financial, emotional and physical support they need.
  • Sixty percent wish they knew more about planning for their sibling's care and finances.

MassMutual offers some advice for future sibling caregivers:

  • Choose an experienced professional team to help make informed health, educational, legal and financial decisions.
  • Be careful when making financial, educational and healthcare decisions to avoid disqualifying siblings with special needs from state and federal programs.
  • Prepare a will and letter of intent. The letter of intent offers information about your sibling's routines, medical issues and preferences for living situations.

Responses for the study were collected from interviews with 1,392 adults age 18 and older who have an adult sibling as well as from a national survey of 351 adults who have a sibling with a developmental disability, including autism, an intellectual disability or a physical disability.