Successful Parent Caregiving with Your Siblings
Caring for an aging parent alone is stressful and can be difficult. The good news is caregiving with siblings can be enormously helpful. The bad news is caregiving with siblings can add more stress.
Whether you’re just starting to care for your parent or already sharing caregiving responsibilities with your siblings, take a step back and look at the family dynamics, which can impact shared caregiving. Rather than think of your sibling in the role they played when you were younger, take a fresh look at who they are now. Have a conversation with them to discuss how caring for your parent will be a shared responsibility. Rather than letting assumptions become default decisions (the oldest will be in charge, or another sibling needs a place to live, so this person will be the caregiver), consider who is most able, willing, skilled, and emotionally prepared to assist. Then identify how other siblings will contribute in time or money.
After you and your siblings agree to the roles you will play, have a family meeting with your siblings, parents, other concerned relatives, and friends to clarify the situation, work out conflicts, and set up a care plan. You most likely will need more than one meeting to address everyone’s concerns and achieve your goals.
During the meeting do the following:
- Set an agenda and keep to it.
- Focus on now and going forward, try not to bring up the past or unrelated issues.
- Ask everyone to share their feelings about the situation and their concerns.
- Listen and respect the opinions of all participants.
- Give everyone time to speak.
- Share all information. If possible, get a professional assessment of your parent’s condition from a doctor, social worker, or geriatric care manager and send the report to all participants before the meeting.
If the meeting is likely to be contentious, or if you want someone objective to guide the meeting, ask a social worker, counselor, geriatric care manager, or trusted outside party to serve as facilitator who will ensure all participants have a chance to be heard.
Most importantly, respect that your brothers and sisters might have different ideas about the care your parent needs. It’s hard to accept that your parent needs help. Unless there’s a sudden crisis like a stroke, adjusting to this new reality takes time. Some adult children will need to work through their denial that anything serious is wrong. Others might feel reluctant to get involved, fearing they are “meddling” in their parent’s life.
As time goes by, use email, online care-sharing tools, conference calling, and in-person family meetings to help keep everyone abreast of care issues and share updates. With frequent and varied communication modalities, together you’ll all be able to work through the differences that arise, address changing needs, and provide the best care your parent needs.