How to Handle Past Rivalries So Your Aging Parents Don’t Suffer
Family dynamics can be tricky when an aging parent needs caregiving. Siblings go from living their own independent lives to sharing caregiving duties with each other. Effects of Sibling Rivalry on Caregiving
The problem comes when old rivalries arise. You may also have grown apart and have different ideas of acceptable caregiving or what’s best for mom or dad. It can affect your relationship with each other and put your aging parent in an uncomfortable position. So, how can you work together to ensure your parent is receiving the proper care and reduce undue stress on you and your parent? Effects of Sibling Rivalry on Caregiving
Steps to Mitigate Caregiving Issues Between Siblings:
Involve Your Parent
Ideally, your parent is still able to make his or her own decisions so you can all sit together and plan how to manage their care. Don’t put them in the middle of your sibling rivalry. You are adults now; you can work together without putting your parent in an awkward position.
In business, we can work with people we don’t like because its business and there are no emotions tied to it. Unfortunately, when it comes to family dynamics, it is all about emotions so it can be hard to set aside personal feelings.
Agree to go into the discussion with an open mind. You can each make a list of your non-negotiables so you know what areas are most important to everyone involved. Provide pros and cons for your recommendations to remove the emotions.
Does your sibling want to put you parent in an assisted living facility and you want your parent to age in place? How does your parent feel about the options? Once you’ve all listened to each others’ opinions, you can make more educated decision of what is best for your parent. Effects of Sibling Rivalry on Caregiving
What if You Can’t Agree?
If your parent is experiencing cognitive decline or dementia, it becomes more challenging to get their input since they may not be able to make decisions for themselves. You may need to bring in an impartial third party to facility the conversation if you and your siblings can’t come to an agreement. A facilitator can be anyone from a clergy person to a trained therapist.
Once you’ve decided on a course of action, the next step is to figure out how to get it all done. If you still have a problem agreeing on how to proceed, you may want to consider outsourcing care to a geriatric care manager, who can provide recommendations for care and keep everyone updated.
Communication is Key
One of the biggest complaints from siblings is that they didn’t know a decision was being made or they weren’t aware of a medical condition. Avoid creating conflict by deciding ahead of time how often and when you will update each other and what decisions should be made by committee and what decisions can be made by the caregiver “on duty.”
It becomes less stressful when everyone knows their responsibility and the parameters for decision-making ahead of time. How you choose to communicate is up to you, but my preference is to maintain a document that holds all of the updates.
Divide and Conquer
You may not get along, but you will have to work together. The easiest way to work together and not have tension and conflict is to divide the necessary tasks and decide who will do what ahead of time.
Don’t leave the small tasks off the list, assuming they will get handled. Include everything from making medical appointments, scheduling or providing transportation to appointments, paying bills and housekeeping, grocery shopping and providing personal-care for your parent. Once you have a clear picture, you can either divide it by tasks or decide what will be outsourced and who will pay for it.
For example, a family member who doesn’t live nearby or doesn’t have flexibility to take time off work can handle administrative tasks such as phone scheduling, bill paying, tracking medical care and service research. Someone who has more flexibility or works irregular hours can handle transportation to appointments, grocery shopping and personal-care tasks.
Sometimes, family members have to decide what issue is their “hill to die on.” If one member has strong feelings about an issue and the other is ambivalent, go with the opinion of the person with the strongest opinion. If neither of the siblings is sure how to handle an issue, consult a professional and go with their recommendation.
What happens when even after meeting with a facilitator and dividing all of the tasks, you find that you can’t get along and your parent’s care is suffering? You will need to consider outsourcing. Ideally, your parents have the financial means to cover the costs, but if not, you may need to decide how much everyone will contribute financially. If some members aren’t able to contribute financially, can they contribute in other ways?
If your parent isn’t able to cover caregiving costs and you and your siblings are unable to bear the financial burden, there are resources available to your parent. Reach out to your parent’s local senior center to determine what is available in their area. You should also contact your local Administration on Aging office for support.
Sibling rivalry can make caregiving challenging. Try not to let it impact your parent’s care or your own well-being.
Effects of Sibling Rivalry on Caregiving