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3 Tips for Caring for a Sibling with Special Needs

Preparation Advice for Caring for a sibling with special needs

When a family has a child with special needs, the care of that child eventually falls on the shoulders of the entire family. The parents generally care for the child for as long as they are able. However, when the parents begin to age, the siblings are often called upon to take over care of their special needs sibling. This brings extra responsibility and stress and can impact the schedule of the caregiving sibling. Those who are charged with the responsibility of caring for a sibling with special needs must begin planning for how they are going to manage this situation before they must take over the responsibility.

How to Make the Transition into Caring for a Sibling with Special Needs as Smooth as Possible


  1. Ease Your Way into Caregiving

The first tip for caring for an adult sibling with special needs is to ease your way into the role of caregiver. If caring for a sibling with special needs is in your future, find tasks you can begin doing to care for them now. Maybe begin by taking them for an appointment or for some other outing. Another great opportunity is to care for them during times when parents might be out of town or in order to just give parents a weekend break. This can be beneficial for all family members involved. It can give tired and aging parents a respite while also giving the special needs sibling the opportunity to become more familiar with having someone else other than the parents caring for the special needs sibling. Additionally, it gives the sibling caregiver a good chance to get to experience the needs of their sibling in a time frame that is more controlled.


  1. Explore Legal Needs

Chances are the parents of the adult special needs child have put into place many resources to help care for their special needs child once they are unable to do so. But, if a sibling is to be the future caregiver, they need to be involved in this planning and understand their role and legal rights and responsibilities. One legal issue that needs to be addressed is guardianship. The family needs to decide when the caregiving sibling should assume the role of guardian and take care of all legal paperwork necessary, so that this is in place when needed. At McDonald Law Firm, we can assist you with the guardianship-modification process, if needed. Additionally, if there is a special needs trust in place or a trust needs to be created, we can assist to make all the arrangements for the management of the assets of an existing trust, or we can draft a new trust. Legal matters such as guardianship and the management of trusts can often take time, so it is important to have these conversations early and make decisions, in advance, as a family.


  1. Have a Financial Plan

Many parents plan for the long-term care of adult children with special needs. However, there are families that have no plans in place. If a sibling knows that they will eventually be the primary caregiver for their sibling, they should begin becoming familiar with the benefits received by their siblings with special needs and benefits available to family members who serve as caregivers. It is very important that parents and future sibling caregivers sit down and discuss wills, trusts, and insurance, so that the caregiver also understands what financial support will be left for the care of their sibling with special needs. Outlining the cost of caring for a sibling with special needs can also be a helpful step in planning to care for the sibling. Once a sibling caregiver understands the financial support and costs of caring for a sibling with special needs, then they can begin planning ahead and creating a budget that works.


Planning ahead and knowing the legal and financial needs of caring for a sibling with special needs can help make a difficult transition run more smoothly. These changes are hard for all family members involved. Support is available, because even the most prepared will need help at one turn or another.


If you have any questions about care for an adult sibling with special needs or would like additional information about estate planning, special needs planning, or Medicaid/long-term care planning, contact Andre O. McDonald, a knowledgeable Howard County estate planning, special needs planning, Medicaid/long-term care planning, and business planning attorney at (443) 741-1088.




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For help with estate planning, special needs planning or elder law throughout Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore County; and Baltimore City, contact McDonald Law Firm, LLC.

McDonald Law Firm, LLC

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10500 Little Patuxent Pkwy, #420
Columbia, MD 21044-3563

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Bethesda, MD 20814

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Washington, DC 20037

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