Caregiving Is a Family Affair
As a child
you probably didn't like it when others compared you to your siblings.
Now, as an adult caring for an aging parent, those similarities and
differences can continue to influence the challenges your family is
You and your siblings each have a unique relationship with
your parent. You've each played particular roles in the family. Those
roles have been shaped over your lifetime. So it’s not strange that
we fall back into our family roles when everyone gathers.
have unique abilities, life experiences and training. You each have
your own way of handling things. Your own strengths and weaknesses.
It's a small wonder then that when it comes to helping your mother or
father, there may at times be some differences of opinion, even some
These are some points to consider about
dealing with family conflict over caring for an aging parent:
● The best way to begin to handle a potential
conflict or difference of opinion is to sit down and talk it over with
your siblings before there's a medical crisis or other emergency. This
meeting doesn’t have to be formal. Plan a conference call to chat.
Or you may just want to make some time at the next family get-together.
Be sure to include your parent in meetings.
● Take time to prepare for these meetings.
Gather information that will be shared and that will help in decision
making. Maybe you’ll need input from a professional who can add an
expertise that the family doesn’t have.
● Together, make a list the of "what
ifs" and come up with some workable solutions. The important
thing is that everyone has an opportunity to talk and help in any
decisions that need to be made. This means that everyone must
respectfully listen to each other.
● Make assignments: staying in touch
with the doctor, handling finances, seeing to it that home care is
provided and all the rest. Schedules can be set up: Who's driving Dad
to the doctor when? Who's going to be with Mom on what days? (Or, for
an out-of-town siblings, who's going to call her when?)
● Sometimes siblings just can't be in the same
room with each other without arguments. There may be a lot of family
dynamics going on here: anger, resentment, disagreements over money, a
history of abuse, alcoholism and so on. If that's the case, try to
find someone respected by the family members to facilitate the
meeting. This may be a time when it's necessary to set aside
differences—call a temporary cease-fire—and deal with taking care
of a parent.
And here are some things to remember when the
family discusses this challenge:
● Out-of-towners (long-distance
caregivers) and those who live nearby are going to have different
perspectives. It’s a time for everyone to learn.
● A visit home can give a long-distance
sibling a chance to offer the primary caregiver some time off. And the
local sibling should make sure the long-distance brother or sister has
some time alone with Mom or Dad.
● If you are the primary caregiver,
don't be shy about asking your siblings for help. They may not know
what to do. They may feel a little intimidated because you seem to be
doing everything so well. Sometimes it helps to offer a couple of
choices: "Can you take Mom to the doctor's on Tuesday afternoon
or stay with her Saturday morning?" And when they help, remember
that how they perform a task might not be how you would do it, but
both ways may be right.
● There can be incredible strength and
comfort in numbers. Common concern for Mom or Dad doesn't have to
splinter a family; it can bring members closer together.
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