How to Work With Siblings to Care for an Aging Parent

October 01, 2018

The challenge of caring for an aging parent can be magnified when the responsibility falls on loved ones, especially siblings. Sometimes, longstanding issues affecting the relationship among siblings can be a detriment to providing a secure, nurturing environment for Mom or Dad. Identifying conflicts or concerns among family member is a good first step when attempting to provide quality care for a senior parent.

Caregiver Sibling Resentment

Being the parent’s main support system can be exhausting and overwhelming. So, it’s natural for the sibling providing hands-on care to resent those who aren’t regularly attending to their parent’s needs. And if the siblings criticize how and what the primary caregiver is doing for the parent, the level of resentment is sure to be amplified.

However, siblings should remember what’s most important, says Andrea Donovan, President of Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors, a senior housing consulting and geriatric care management firm in Inverness, Illinois. “It is more or less a moral obligation to take care of the parent. The task is much easier when you can all get along.”

Enlisting the Aid of Siblings

How to get siblings to help with aging parents? The process begins with communication. The primary caregiver can initiate change by:

  • Arranging a family meeting: Whether in person, by phone or online, gather your siblings for a discussion to spell out your parent’s needs and how they can help provide them.
  • Ensuring a dialogue among siblings: Make sure you calmly express your concerns and feelings, and listen carefully to your siblings feelings and viewpoints.
  • Delegating responsibilities: Specify the areas in which you need help. Explain what’s difficult for you to accomplish and ask someone to relieve you of those roles.

Elder Care Sibling Tensions

Conflicts among siblings may be unavoidable but not necessarily insurmountable. Professionals in the field of senior care are one solution to the problem.

“My suggestion is that the family hire a geriatric care manager to assess the senior loved one’s cognitive, functional and financial limitations,” says Donovan. “A detailed, individualized care plan is then crafted based upon the results of the assessment, including written goals and a reasonable timeline for implementation. When possible, the senior loved one’s input should be included in the entire process.

“Hiring an independent third party like a geriatric care manager can diffuse the tension among siblings. They are not a relative. They are observing the loved one’s situation with a fresh set of eyes and ears. This avoids a situation where one sibling dominates with his/her opinion over the other siblings, or tries to take control over the situation. Any tension that exists amongst siblings can be directed towards a third party.”

Siblings Not Helping With Parents

Some siblings will always be unwilling to assume caregiving responsibilities at any level. “The best way to deal with siblings who refuse to take care of parents is to carry on without them and hope they eventually will jump on board,” says Donovan. “You will waste time trying to convince the reluctant sibling to participate. Instead, direct your positive energy toward taking care of the parent.”

There Is Another Option

The good news is that you and your aging parent can still get the assistance and support you need through assisted living. A senior living community or assisted living community, like Lexington Square can provide numerous amenities specific to your senior parent’s needs, and an environment in which they can thrive. Start exploring these options for your senior parent today.

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