Caring for aging parents can be as stressful as it is rewarding – maybe more so. Roles slowly reverse. Finances, marriages and jobs may suffer. With siblings, family dynamics and old wounds may create challenges.
The holiday season may also stoke friction. Maybe a brother visiting from out of town is shocked at how Mom’s decline and disagrees with her care. A reminiscence about family mementos may shift to a discussion of a will and finances, triggering squabbles. The primary caregiver might resent the freedom that other siblings have.
However, with some strategic planning and communication, siblings can forge a solid team and support each other. Common stressors for siblings are roles, responsibilities and finances. The following steps might ease the pressure:
Have a family meeting
Create an agenda to ensure nothing is overlooked and to keep everyone focused on the present, not the past. Set some ground rules: no shouting, name calling, swearing or interrupting. Listen as much as you talk. Avoid starting sentences with “you,” which might sound accusatory or include erroneous assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.
Identify needs and resources
Be specific about the kind of help you need if you are the sole or primary caregiver. For example, “I would like a couple of hours on Sunday to go to church” or “I need someone to go to the grocery and run errands” or “the medical appointments and paperwork overwhelm me.”
Evaluate the kind and cost of care required. Maybe Dad needs Adult Day services so that family caregivers can continue to work. Maybe Mom simply needs someone to help her bath and dress in the morning or run errands. An evaluation by a medical professional could be useful in clarifying the kind of care required, particularly if siblings can’t agree. If the family situation is particularly contentious, an outside third party such as a mediator might ease strife.
Carve out responsibilities
Play to strengths. Who’s better with numbers? Who is handy around the house? Maybe the bookkeeper in the family can help manage finances. Perhaps the out-of-town sibling can pay for some weekly respite care. A medical professional in the family might be the obvious choice for helping with paperwork and appointments.
Manage expectations. Perfectly equal division of tasks and financial contributions may not be possible. Instead, focus on working together and trying to ease some part of everyone’s stress.
ElderServe stands ready to support older adults and the families who care for them. Our care managers can help you identify resources, and the service is free. Our non-medical Home Care and medical model Adult Day Health Center can provide respite support at competitive rates. Your parent might be eligible for financial assistance through Medicaid, KIPDA or VA. Call us at 502.587.8673 for more information.