If an aging parent requires long-term care, ideally, the entire family will come together to examine the different available options, create a sensible budget, divide the tasks evenly, and reach a consensus on the best path forward.
In reality, decisions among siblings surrounding the care of an aging parent can re-open olds wounds, or create new ones.
Some factors behind disputes can be logistical: maybe one sibling lives close to the parent(s) in question and can see their need for care up close day after day, while their brother(s) or sister(s) who live out of town may not be aware the degree to which a parent’s health may have deteriorated. Or one sibling is a primary caregiver while others don’t feel willing or able to take on that role.
Sometimes these decisions expose fault lines in relationships going back to childhood, where one sibling has always traditionally taken a lead role in decision-making, continuing on-going frustrations that span lifetimes.
And then of course, there’s the issue of money.
It can all add to the already emotional time that comes from facing the reality of having to create a care plan for a parent.
In this blog, we’re going to examine four common disagreements that can occur between siblings, with options on how to handle them.
Debating whether a parent may even need care
For some siblings, living out of town may not allow them to see a deterioration in a parent’s health or their ability to be independent. Even if distance isn’t an issue, in some cases, one or more siblings may not be willing to accept that their loved one is requiring care. Or they see a sibling acting as caregiver and think that alone is enough.
Sometimes people may overreact to a situation, sometimes they underreact.
To help start getting the family on the same page, it’s helpful to seek evaluations from medical professionals. Schedule an appointment with the parent’s primary care physician for them to gauge any changes to their health, cognitive state, or decline.
Or, a geriatric care manager can perform an assessment and make recommendations on a path forward.
Trusting an expert in caring for older adults who can provide independent diagnoses and/or guidance is a vital first step to families getting on the same page, and can help siblings start developing appropriate care plans.
Dividing the caregiving duties
A common source of frustration is if one sibling is shouldering much of the heavy lifting (perhaps literally) that comes with caring for an aging parent or parents.
As discussed above, sometimes that’s a function of logistics if they are the only sibling living in proximity to the parent(s).
But it can also occur even if everyone lives in the same city. For some, they’re raising their own families and working, and struggling to make time for it all. Others just aren’t comfortable with assisting their mother or father with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing and toileting. Sometimes a primary caregiver may also be keeping their struggles to themself, and not communicating the degree to which they’re stressed.
First, if a caregiver is approaching burnout, they need to be honest and ask for help, rather than waiting for someone to volunteer. A weekend, or a week off to recharge batteries might go a long way to alleviating their stress.
From there, siblings should consider a divide-and-conquer strategy that might play to each’s strengths. If it’s possible to divvy up the time more evenly, that’s a great start.
But even if some people prefer not to help with the day-to-day personal assistance, there are other ways to pitch in:
- Meal planning, shopping and cooking for both the primary caregiver and the parent(s)
- Taking care of the parent’s finances and bills
- Making appointments and accompanying the loved one there
- Cleaning out an attic or basement, and disposing of any unneeded items
- Yard/house work
Home aide or assisted living?
Suppose all siblings agree that a parent needs additional care, and even divvy up the caregiving duties evenly. There can come a point where the needs of their loved one extend past their capabilities and a more permanent solution is needed.
This is where more debates can take place. Often, a disagreement can take hold based on what that next step might be.
In some cases, siblings are torn over whether a parent needs a home aide or whether they need to move to assisted living.
Many older adults want to stay in their own home, and siblings understandably want to honor their wishes, particularly if they themselves have an emotional attachment to the home.
Another sibling, or siblings, might not think a home aide is feasible, and feel their parent needs the expanded care capabilities and social opportunities that come with a full team at an assisted living community.
First, meet in the middle with open minds.
For the sibling(s) who prefers the assisted living route, at least interview potential home aides, be transparent about the parent’s needs and find out if the potential aides are experienced with those needs and able to meet them.
For those who advocate for a home aide, be willing to tour at least a couple of assisted living communities and learn how they care for their residents, the activities they run and the dining options.
Be willing to go in with an open mind, and consider the best course for your loved one.
Further, this is another opportunity to discuss care plans with a geriatric care manager, as noted above.
This is where it can get particularly complicated. Maybe a sibling acting as a primary caregiver is shouldering much of the financial burden. Maybe money is tight across the family and the prospect of home care or assisted living is daunting. Or in some cases, a sibling or siblings are hoping to protect an inheritance they may receive after a parent’s passing.
When money is involved, conversations and relationships can deteriorate quickly. Like so many things though, many issues can be stemmed with communication.
If possible, start that conversation early and include your parent(s) and all siblings. Many families struggle to discuss finances, but it’s better to get as much in the open as possible. Here are a few things to discuss:
- Can your parent(s) pay for care, and if so, what is the budget?
- Do they have a long-term care policy?
- If siblings need to contribute, how much will they need to do so? And should costs be split evenly, or is there one sibling with more financial flexibility who will contribute more?
- Will one sibling take on the role of power of attorney?
It would also be a good idea for the family to hire a financial planner. They can help answer these questions and are duty-bound to act in the best interests of the parent(s). A mediator is also a good option to help discuss issues around inheritances.
Money is a taboo topic in many families, but ultimately, getting in front of it together is the best way to move forward.
Prestige is here to help
At Prestige, we know what an emotional time it is when an aging parent, or parents, needs care more comprehensive care.
Our teams work with older adults and their families every day to help bring peace of mind to families as we provide unparalleled care for our residents.
We encourage you to reach out to the community nearest you to set up a tour, where you and your family will be welcomed and able to see the personalized care options we offer, the activities that make our community lively and the restaurant-quality meals residents enjoy each day.