When it comes to making decisions about caring for parents who are aging, having siblings by your side can be very comforting. Even though this time can be emotionally difficult, it can bring family members closer together. But, tensions can arise, especially if siblings disagree about caring for an elderly parent, or responsibilities fall more on one family member than others.
Emotions play a huge role when it comes to long-term care. Every feeling, from love to guilt to sadness to anger, can be felt. It’s important to remember that all these emotions stem from the fact that the adult children love their parent, and want what they believe is best.
So what can you do when siblings disagree about caring for an elderly parent? Here are some common issues and solutions.
Issues that Can Lead to Disagreement
It’s often the case that the adult child who lives nearest to the parent becomes the go-to primary caregiver by default. It could be that the oldest sibling is expected to take over the role of primary caregiver. Perhaps the daughter, or daughter-in-law, is expected to step in and do the domestic chores like cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping.
It could be that one adult child feels the parent should move into their home or the home of a sibling. This can be rewarding, but can become an expensive and time-consuming commitment. Perhaps one sibling thinks the parent would be better off in a senior living community, while another is adamant that the parent should stay at home. The thought of moving out of the family home can be difficult for adult children to contemplate for their parent.
But caring for parents in their home may require time-consuming obligations as well as major home alterations, such as ramps, railings, bathroom modifications and more. These changes can be prohibitively expensive, or not worth the cost when it comes time to sell the house later on.
Cope with Disagreement by Communicating
Having honest and frank conversations about caring for parents early and often, before complications arise, will go a long way toward avoiding tension. Look ahead to the future for your parent, yourself and everyone involved. The focus is always on the quality of life of your parent, but everyone’s individual situation must be taken into account. Everyone matters.
Have Regular Family Meetings
Getting together to discuss the situation and solutions, either in person or long distance, is the best way to avoid misunderstanding and conflict. Keeping the lines of communication open allows everyone to stay on the same page when it comes to senior care.
Family meetings can feel awkward or formal at first, but over time they can become normal and relaxed. The more you have them, the easier it will be to have compassionate and productive conversations. Having an agenda set ahead of time can help everyone prepare. And during the meeting, make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard.
It can be difficult when siblings disagree, but it’s important to remember that everyone is on the same side when it comes to caring for parents. Everyone’s perspective comes from love, and everyone is trying to do what they think is right.
What to Do When Siblings Disagree
Not all siblings can find a middle ground that everyone is happy with. A primary caregiver can feel like they are still overburdened. Some may feel that too much money is being spent. If family meetings don’t solve disagreements, there are options.
You can seek the help of a geriatric care manager. This is a professional who can navigate the process of senior care and even facilitate family meetings to help with decision-making. They guide the family through senior care management and coordinate the ongoing tasks that are necessary to maintain the parent’s quality of life.
A geriatric care manager will use their expertise to coordinate a plan for the whole family but does not provide hands-on care themselves. They can also navigate the emotional toll the situation is taking on everyone involved and offer solutions to caring for parents.
For larger disagreements, a psychologist can help with family therapy sessions. There might be some ongoing tensions or long-standing issues that are getting in the way of a harmonious relationship. A therapist can help resolve these deeper issues.
If the family dynamic has become so negative that it’s beyond the point of calm reconciliation, a more formal approach may be necessary. An elder care mediator can facilitate negotiations between family members who cannot calmly talk to one another. The mediator doesn’t make decisions, but offers solutions to help siblings find common ground. This can involve decisions about power of attorney, financial stewardship, the authority to make medical decisions, and all other issues about caring for parents.
Advice for the Aging Parent
If you’re an older adult who has adult children, you could consider moving to a continuing care retirement community before you need long-term care. This would eliminate any potential conflicts that could arise between your children, who each want what they think is best for you. You can live a carefree, independent lifestyle now, and know that care will be available for you should you need it down the road.
You have the opportunity to give your children the wonderful gift of peace of mind, knowing you’re in control of your own life and have made the decisions you want to make. You can help them avoid the need to debate, disagree, and possibly argue about what they think might be best for you.
Final legal, financial and medical decisions should be made by the parent with the help of professionals. Taking away the burden of these decisions from the adult children will go a long way toward avoiding conflict before it starts.
Fellowship Senior Living
Older adults can make sure their children never become overburdened with the responsibility of caregiving. Contact us to get all your questions answered about how you can make this happen, and get to know our wonderful community.