If you grew up with brothers or sisters, the chances are good you fought with them.[1. “Sibling Rivalry,” https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sibling-rivalry] Maybe at first it was over toys or parental attention. Later, it was likely all about who got to use the car that night or which of you claimed the bigger room when you moved to a new house. But as time goes on, squabbles tend to be about more important things—and perhaps none is as important as home care for parents.
What Do Siblings Fight About with Regard to Parents?
There are many issues that can cause disagreements over home care for parents. However, some may crop up more than others. The following are just a few areas where you may butt heads:
Is one or more of you shelling out cash to take care of mom or dad? Who is doing so and how much are they giving? One sibling may not be happy if they feel their funds are being drained or if they’re contributing more than others. Who is making the financial decisions if Mom or Dad is unable to do so themselves, and does everyone agree with those decisions?
Sometimes, one or more siblings don’t feel the others are doing their fair share when it comes to caregiving tasks, chores, or sheer time spent on such things. Resentment can easily grow if one person feels they have too much responsibility, while another has hardly any.
Is everyone convinced that their parents living arrangements are the way they should be? One sibling might like the fact that Mom continues to remain at home, while another worries she might be lonely in a big house now that Dad is gone.
Even if siblings all share the opinion that hiring a professional caregiver is a good option, they may not agree on the amount and type of help that is needed. Are a few hours a week with a home health aide good enough for Dad, or does his declining health warrant 24/7 care? Also, which sibling makes sure caregivers are licensed, trained, and trustworthy enough to handle the job?
What happens when it’s time for a parent to give up their car keys or accept outside help? These aren’t easy conversations to have, but they can directly impact an older adult’s safety at home.[2. “Dangerous Older Drivers: A Car is a Lethal Weapon,” August 15, 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynrosenblatt/2012/08/15/dangerous-older-drivers-a-car-is-a-lethal-weapon/] Some siblings may agree it’s time to have such discussions, while others may not—or may be uncomfortable bringing the topics up to their parents at all.
Healthcare is often right up there with the touchy subject of money when it comes to sibling arguments about their older parents. Who makes key medical decisions when the parent can’t anymore? Do the siblings have conflicting views about experimental treatments and end-of-life care? These are the kind of things that not only cause fights among siblings, but keep them up at night.
Getting Along for Your Parents’ Sake
If the above issues make you want to bury your head in your hands, take heart! There are ways to reduce conflict surrounding home care for parents. Below are several viable options:
Realize that No One’s a Mind-reader
Sometimes all you have to do to get a sibling to pony up or pitch in is to ask. Remember: if they don’t know what you need or want, they can’t give it to you.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Conflict often stems from miscommunication, or even lack of communication. Make sure everyone knows the right information about your parents at the right time; meet, call, video chat, or e-mail regularly.
Pick Your Battles
Crucial things like healthcare and safety are non-negotiable. But do you really care if the grocery shopping gets done on Wednesdays or Thursdays? Unless it’s the key to your parents’ happiness, it might be more helpful to just let an argument go.
Hard as it may be, practice patience and empathy with your siblings. No matter how hard working with them may be, in the end you’re all striving towards the same goal.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.