It can be a complicated matter, planning and organizing the care for your parents. You have to juggle between the need for help and the complexity of involving siblings. Your siblings are probably the best source of support you could ask for, yet could also potentially be the biggest source of stress. There are a lot of dynamics to consider.
Sibling tensions dating back to childhood can come to a head when parents need care. This usually happens because everyone is brought together again and must work together to come to a solution, but the family may not have developed a model of cooperation. So in a way they are starting from scratch. Here they’ve got this issue of needing to come together to help their elderly parent but they never worked through the struggles they had with each other growing up.
If you find it hard to plan with your siblings for your parents’ care, try going through the following checklist. You might find something helpful.
- Do you find yourself and your siblings competing over caregiving? It can be difficult, so go easy on yourself and have compassion on your siblings.
- Diffuse conflicts quickly. Remember you don’t have to attend every squabble you’re invited to.
- Try to understand the hurt or fear your siblings are feeling in this time of stress. Show them extra love and concern even when their behavior doesn’t seem to deserve it.
- Decide early on what financial contributions each sibling will make (if any) towards an elder care provider. If not necessary for the children to contribute, this service can be paid for by the parents receiving the care.
- Have a conversation about having a primary family caregiver. Not that the person has to do most of the work (by any means!) but they would be responsible for helping to organize everyone’s efforts.
- Let everyone have their say, without any preconceived expectations from other siblings, about what they can do and are willing to do to help with the care required.
- Think about your family roles when you were living in the same house, and then think how you can change them to suit the needs of the caregiving situation.
- Take a fresh new look at your siblings. Time has gone by and they are someone new. View each one as a person rather than a sibling. Think of yourself in a work group of other people who have a job to do and plan to get it done.
- Siblings are individuals and they may all have different views on elder care. Try to include everyone with respect. Include your parents as much as possible, too. This may not be possible for the parent who has dementia.
- Try to leave yesterday’s battles in yesterday and start today on a new page for the common good of your parents’ care.
- Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You can do this!