The 50-50 Rule

Updated on October 11, 2022

Siblings who care for their aging parents in the home setting often understands the behind-the-scenes family conflict that can interfere with the care of their parents.

A nationwide program, coined The 50-50 Rule, offers strategies for overcoming sibling differences to help families provide the best care for senior parents. The 50-50 Rule refers to the average age (50 years old) when siblings are caring for their parents, as well as the need for siblings to share in the plans for care, hence the term, “50-50.”

At the core of the 50-50 Rule is a family relationship and communication guide of real-life situations that features practical advice from sibling relationships expert Dr. Ingrid Connidis from the University of Western Ontario.

According to the website, family feuds often revolve around the following areas and impact the health status of a senior:

  • Roles and rivalries dating back to childhood. Mature adults often find that they’re back in the sandbox when their family gets together. This tendency can grow even more pronounced under the strain of caregiving.
  • Disagreements over an elder’s condition and capabilities. It’s common for family members to have very different ideas about what’s wrong with a loved one and what should be done about it. You may be convinced that your family member is no longer capable of driving, while your brothers argue that he needs to maintain his independence.
  • Disagreements over financial matters, estate planning, family inheritance and other practical issues. How to pay for a family member’s care is often a huge cause of tension. Financial concerns can influence decisions about where the person should live, whether or not a particular medical intervention is needed, and whether he can afford a housekeeper. These conflicts are often fueled by ongoing resentment over income disparities and perceived inequities in the distribution of the family estate.
  • Burden of care. Experts say the most common source of discord among family members occurs when the burden of caring for an elder isn’t distributed equally. Home Instead Senior Care research reveals that in 43 percent of U.S. families and 41 percent of Canadian families, one sibling has the responsibility for providing most or all of the care for mom or dad. “Usually one of the adult children in the family takes on most of the caregiving tasks,” says Donna Schempp, program director at the Family Caregiver Alliance ( a national nonprofit organization that provides information and support to caregivers.

Engaging parents in caregiving issues is important and so are family meetings that involve a third party if necessary. A third-party resource, particularly a professional such as a doctor or geriatric care manager, can provide an impartial voice of reason.

“Talking before a crisis is best,” Dr. Connidis said. “Talk to one another about perceptions of what happens if seniors need help, how available you would be, and the options that you and your family would consider.”

For more information about the 50-50 Rule program, visit

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