Working with your siblings to care for an aging parent can be rewarding, challenging, and every emotion in between. For some families, this is a time to reminisce and reconnect. It gives everyone an opportunity to remember the old days in a positive way. Unfortunately, caregiving doesn’t go so smoothly for every family. Sibling feuds are a fairly frequent occurrence when a senior loved one needs more assistance.
Adult children often have their own busy lives: a career and a family that leave little free time. Unresolved childhood rivalries and financial disputes can also heighten tension among sibling caregivers. Added to these stressors is how difficult it is to witness a senior loved one’s health decline.
If your family is struggling to find ways to peacefully work together, we have some ideas you might find useful.
4 Tips to Help Siblings Care for a Senior Loved One
- Assess needs: Begin by creating an honest, objective list of personal care needs and household tasks your loved one needs help completing. What personal care tasks are they no longer safe doing on their own? Do they have problems with daily activities like menu planning, meal preparation, and paying bills? Don’t forget to ask your senior loved one what they would like help with. Their honest input is key to keeping them safe. Also remember that not everyone in the family may be in agreement on what type of and how much assistance a parent requires. Some siblings may be in denial about a parent’s health status and firmly believe they don’t require as much help as they really do.
- Sit down together: Next, schedule a family meeting. Whenever possible, it is best to sit down in person and include your parent in the meeting. If faraway siblings can’t come to town to join you, use a video chat service like Skype to allow them to see everyone virtually. Create an agenda before the meeting and email it out to everyone involved, and ask for their input. Agree at the start of the meeting that everyone has the same goal: to make sure your parent receives the support they need. Work through the list in a calm, respectful manner. If one sibling lives too far away to help on a daily or weekly basis, they may be able to help with remote tasks, such as following up on insurance claims or researching senior care providers online. They might also want to consider paying for weekly housekeeping for your parent or for a meal delivery service. Be willing to compromise and work together to find solutions.
- Stay in touch: Keeping the lines of communication open is critical. It can help prevent small misunderstandings from being blown out of proportion. Phone calls and video chat are best because they lower the risk of something that is said in a text or email from being misinterpreted. You can use email to update everyone on the results of physician appointments, testing, and other similar issues. A word of caution: don’t place the burden of keeping everyone updated on the primary caregiving sibling. They have enough to do. Designate another sibling in the family as the person responsible for conveying changes and new concerns to everyone else.
- Plan ahead: While you and your siblings working together might be able to juggle your parent’s needs for a while, there may come a time when they are no longer safe living alone or they need more care than you can provide. It is important that you begin to plan for their future today, especially while your parent is still able to convey their own wishes to you. Create a list of in-home care providers and assisted living communities near your parent. Divide up the list and start researching each one. Plan to make both phone calls and in-person visits. This process also helps you create a back-up care plan in case the primary caregiving sibling has a health crisis or emergency of their own.
Our final tip is to seek outside assistance if your family just can’t find ways to work together. It might be by employing the services of a geriatric care manager in an on-going basis or the short-term support of an elder care mediator to help you through this bumpy period.
Download Our Caregiver Checklist
At Vitality, we know caring for a senior loved one isn’t easy. That’s why we created a resource to help make caregiving days go a little more smoothly. The Caregiver’s Checklist: Supporting an Aging Parent covers a wide variety of topics ranging from creating a safe home environment to how to recognize the signs a senior needs more assistance. Download it with our compliments today!