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Managing Sibling Conflict Over a Parent’s Needs

Managing Sibling Conflict Over a Parent’s Needs

These disagreements can be as big as: “Should we move Mom or Dad to assisted living?” Or they might be a difference of opinion over:

  • which senior living community to choose
  • which in-home caregiver seems best
  • what medical treatments parents need
  • whether a parent should be driving anymore

In most cases, it’s safe to assume all siblings want the best for their parents. But their ideas of what is best may differ.

Conflict Arises During the December Holidays
Unfortunately, these conflicts tend to come to light during the holidays, when family members who live far away gather together.

Perhaps a sibling who is living across the country has a problem with the way the local sibling has been managing the parents’ care. But based on geography, they aren’t in a position to help. Or the sibling who is providing the most care is resentful of those who aren’t helping much.

It’s a sticky situation. But there are ways to manage sibling conflict about aging parents’ needs.

Talk It Out

Ideally, siblings can manage any conflict with a friendly conversation. In some cases, it might be that the sibling who isn’t present just doesn’t see how bad things really are. Or that the sibling providing the most care is overwhelmed, stressed out, and exhausted.

In some situations, a simple conversation (out of earshot of your parent) can clear things up. People tend to open up more while driving or even walking side by side due to the lack of eye contact. You might consider taking a ride or going for a walk after dinner and discussing caregiving duties and your parents’ needs.

Hold a Family Meeting

Some disagreements about caring for aging parents can be avoided if you have a plan in place before your parents need a lot of care. By answering some of the more difficult questions with your aging parents’ involvement early on, there’s less to argue about later.

If conflict has already arisen, start holding frequent meetings now to discuss care and how the situation has changed. If siblings live in different areas, use technology like Facetime or Skype for a face-to-face conversation that will be more personal than a phone call.

Abandon Your Old Roles

When we get together with siblings, we tend to fall into the roles of our childhood. Older siblings may not listen to the baby of the family, even if that “baby” is grown with children of her own and taking on the brunt of caregiving for the aging parents.

Try to meet on equal ground and abandon preconceived notions about your siblings. Everyone has something to contribute to the conversation. 

Know When to Bring in Outside Help

Have conflicts that can’t be resolved? Consider calling in a geriatric care manager, who can help make decisions about what is best for your parents’ care without any emotional biases.

In extreme cases, an elder mediator can resolve disputes.

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