Usually, brothers and sisters are helpful sources of support for family caregivers. But not always. Caregiving can be stressful, and can be even more so when you have siblings who have different ideas about what’s best for your parents.
When one sibling lives near their parents’ home and serves as the primary caregiver, he or she can feel a deep sense of responsibility for them that, to brothers or sisters who don’t serve as the day-to-day caregivers, may come off as possessiveness.
By contrast, siblings who live out of town and only visit a few times a year might feel shock, sadness, or even anger at the changes they see as their parents’ health naturally deteriorates. Sometimes, those emotions can be perceived by the primary caregiver as blame.
Asking your brothers and sisters to put some skin in the game isn’t placing a burden on them — it’s an opportunity.
Other times, a brother or sister may be in denial about the changes they see in your parents; they may be entering a grieving process that will take time to work through. They might be afraid of meddling in your parents’ lives and seek to block you from doing so. Or, you may all fall to re-fighting old, childhood battles.
It’s common for caregiving arguments to arise among siblings. Today, we’ll give you some tips to help improve communication with them and avoid serious squabbles.
1. Divvy up the responsibilities
You might be the physical caregiver day-to-day, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other forms of care that your out-of-town siblings could provide. If they feel like they have an important role to play, they won’t feel helpless or jealous, and become less likely to argue with you.
We know that every caregiver should have a breather from time to time, to help avoid burnout. Siblings who live out of the area could agree to host your elder loved one for several weeks each year, giving you a much-needed vacation and saving on the cost of temporary respite care.
Do you have a sibling living relatively close by, who works full-time, Monday through Friday, and can’t handle daytime care? Maybe that sibling could care for your parent overnight on a weeknight or two, or host your parent on weekends. That would give you valuable time to yourself and give your brother or sister alone time with your parent.
2. Take a cue from King Arthur
In the British legend, King Arthur seated all his vassal knights at the Round Table, so that none would sit at the head and all would feel equal. That’s a model that families who bicker about parents’ care could employ — create a financial roundtable.
You and your siblings could agree to pay equal portions of your parent’s out-of-pocket expenses. Or, you could all pay equal shares into a fund for your parent’s future residential retirement care, should the need for permanent placement ever arise.
Asking your brothers and sisters to put some skin in the game isn’t placing a burden on them — it’s an opportunity for all of you to feel like you have an equal say in your parents’ care. By eliminating monetary contribution disparities among you, you eliminate the ability for one of you to claim the moral imperative.
3. Look to a mediator
If caregiving arguments are getting heated or especially nasty, your family might benefit from a structured sit-down with a trained elder care mediator. Many Aging Life Care™ managers and non-profit senior advocates are skilled in facilitating family discussions.
Like the financial roundtable idea above, a mediation session can help to eliminate perceived disparities in “having a say” about your parents’ care. Every sibling gets a turn to say what’s on his or her mind, share his or her feelings, make requests, voice objections in a constructive way and work toward compromise, all under the auspices of an objective, outside party.
Caregiving can be stressful. But it can also become a rewarding experience.
Use the tips above to avoid arguments with your siblings about your parents’ care. If you all acknowledge each other’s feelings, remain honest with each other, and remember to treat one another with love and respect, you can all focus on giving your parents the excellent family care they deserve.