Thursday, January 29, 2009

How To Care For Aging Parents Without Killing Your Siblings

The Caregiver's Guide For Today's Families!

My mother lived with me until she passed away.
As an "only child", I often wished for a brother or
sister to shoulder the burden.

But then I realized that could bring on its own
set of problems. Although it was tough at times,
I didn't have the worries I've witnessed others
having to endure.

Coping with looking after your aging parent
is difficult enough on its own. If there is conflict
between siblings, it can be hell on earth.

These kinds of conflicts can really escalate when a
parent requires long term care and someone needs
to step in and take on the role of caregiver.

The types of conflicts that come up differ from
family to family, depending on several different
factors but it is important to know in advance that
caregiving is potentially troublesome for sibling
relationships. And how!

So if you can get a handle on things in the beginning,
it will be one less burden to carry during this difficult

The number one issue for siblings when it comes to
caregiving roles is who is going to take on what
responsibilities. The way this problem manifests
itself, however, depends largely on the kind of
relationship each sibling has with the parent and
with each other.

Let's face it. Some people are just plain selfish.
I've watched families where there seems to be
only ONE that does all the work. But the others
take credit!

If the family is close and each sibling has a close
relationship with the parent involved, then the
conflict may come up as rivalry.

Siblings may compete with who will provide the
primary care for the parent, especially if the
decision is made that someone will either have to
move in with the parent or have the parent move
into their home.

The opposite problem will occur if the siblings
and parents are not close. A history of bad feeling
and estrangement between the siblings and the
parent may leave the siblings arguing over which
one of them has to provide the care, as neither of
them wants to get too involved.

That situation is the saddest. For the parents and
their children...

There is, of course, a middle ground to this issue
and that is the one where one sibling is the clear
choice to be the caregiver and the other siblings
remain involved on a limited basis.

This situation can actually cause more resentment
on the part of the caregiver than any other, as they
may feel unduly burdened by taking on everything
themselves. They cannot see a good reason why
their siblings are not helping.

Understanding that your brother and mother do
not get along and he remains uninvolved in her care
is one thing.

Seeing your brother breeze into town and stop by
to say hello to your mother for 20 minutes on his
way out of town on vacation when you haven’t
been able to so much have a cup of coffee with a
friend in months is quite another thing and much
harder to take.

These problems don’t have to happen with you
and your siblings if you’re ready to plan for them
in advance. Anticipate the bumps in the road and
try to avoid them.

The most important thing you can do is make
sure that everyone is involved in every decision
that relates to the care of the parent.

Not only will this help make sure no one feels left
out, it will also give everyone a very clear picture
of what exactly the caregiver has to deal with, so
they may be more willing to jump in and help.

Another big help for siblings is to devise a schedule
that meets everyone’s needs. Everyone is likely
to have different levels of availability to provide

You should split up responsibilities as much as
possible. Siblings who live out of town may be
called on to contribute financially more while
those in town can help with doctor’s visits,
cleaning and so on.

For siblings, realizing a parent requires caregiving
is a daunting discovery. The best way to make sure
the parent gets what they need while the sibling
relationships are protected is to make sure the
communication doors are always open.

For more help with one of life's most important
and yes, difficult situations, check out...

The Caregiver's Guide For Today's Families!