With the limited support for young siblings as caregivers in healthcare, it’s important to foster existing spaces for, about, and by siblings. Siblings of children with medical needs, disabilities, and complexities experience an increased need for support in mental health, transitions, additional caregiving, and the lack of safe spaces, and are often the ‘forgotten caregiver’ especially in pediatric mental health spaces. However, key resources and models have emerged from co-designed, sibling-specific programs at Holland Bloorview like workshops, groups, and tip sheets. These may help other health systems develop their own resources for siblings.
Panelists will share about gaps in the system; common concerns that siblings have for their own and their family’s mental health; stress and anxiety around caregiver responsibilities at a young age; best practices for supporting young sibling caregivers and what they wish for out of health services moving forward. Panelists will also discuss what they believe to be best practices in healthcare to meet the needs of this underserved caregiver population, and how co-design by siblings can be helpful to families and external healthcare systems. The significance of creating accessible mental health spaces about, for and by siblings at a young age allows them to be supportive and supported caregivers as they grow up.
Siblings should be recognized, prepared and supported as important and key caregivers in a patient’s circle of care. As a result, the system can foster and support meaningful relationships between siblings, who potentially will play the longest role in their brothers’ or sisters’ lives.
Melissa Ngo, MDes (Master of Design), BA (Equity Studies, Sociology, Linguistics). Melissa Ngo is a Family Support Specialist on the Client and Family Integrated Care team at Holland Bloorview, and a sibling caregiver. Co-design, first point of contact, and health equity are her areas of expertise as part of the steering committees for Knowledge Translation; Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Anti-Black Racism; and the hospital’s Dear Everybody anti-stigma campaign.
Victoria Rombos, MEd (Developmental Psychology & Education). BA (Early Childhood Studies). Sibling of a sister with GDD/Medical Complexities. Sibling Support Program Coordinator and Research Coordinator at Holland Bloorview: manages referrals, creates curriculum, and facilitates monthly program.