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Sibling Dynamics and Senior Care

How To Navigate Sibling Dynamics When Mom And Dad Need Care

If you have siblings, you’ve more than likely had some sort of sibling rivalry growing up. Oh, the memories! As we get older and go our own ways, those rivalries can lessen and sometimes go away entirely. And no matter how much we may butt heads with our siblings, we know deep down that we’re family and we love each other.

We don’t really think of sibling rivalry as something to worry about...until our aging parents get to the point where they can no longer care for themselves. Then, suddenly, we get thrown back to childhood and are sniping, butting heads and arguing over what’s best and what should be done.

Yes, we can feel your stress levels rising from all the way over here. Most of us have siblings, too, and completely understand where you’re coming from. Dealing with your aging parent is stressful enough, and adding on difficult sibling dynamics may leave you wanting to run away and hide under the bed. However, there are some helpful tips you and your siblings can use to help work through tensions, come to a consensus and move forward in a healthy way that benefits you, your siblings and – most importantly – your senior parent.

1. Figure out how Mom and Dad need help.

While you may have one idea of what type of help Mom and Dad need, your sister or brother may have a completely different take. Sit down (all together if possible) to create a list of things your parents need help with (and what they don’t). For example, are they able to care for their grooming and health needs but are having mobility troubles? Can they still cook healthy meals but is it hard to get to the grocery store? Determining exactly what they really need help with will allow you and your sibs to make informed and objective decisions on how to help. Put everything down on the list that’s brought up, because your sibling may see something you didn’t notice.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Once you’ve figured out what help is needed, it’s time to figure out who will help with what. Think logically about everyone’s strengths. Can your sister, who lives in the same town as Mom and Dad, look into assisted living communities, research and schedule tours? Will your brother, who works in finance during the day, be willing to help manage the financial side of things? Make a plan for how you want to tackle anything that’s needed to get your parents the best possible care they need. Play to each person’s strength, and designate each person a role. Too many cooks in the kitchen can sour the soup.

3. Discuss with your parent.

We put this on the list at #3 but it should be brought up whenever you and your siblings feel like it’s necessary and needed. Obviously, you’re discussing your parent’s lives, which means they should have a big seat at the table. However, if you and your siblings know that there will be resistance to bringing up moving into a community or getting a little extra help, it’s good for you to get on the same page and have a plan so that you can present a united front to your parents.

4. Be kind and respectful.

This is a stressful time, and tensions can run high. Do your best to be kind and respectful to one another. Not only are you dealing with the tactical aspects of helping your parents receive the care they need, but you’re also dealing with the emotional fall-out. Some of us process this quicker or differently than others. Not everyone is wired for caregiving or for understanding the nuances of aging and forgetfulness. If you feel that a conversation is getting heated and too emotional, it’s okay to take a step back and regroup when everyone is feeling more stable. Give everyone else – as well as yourself – grace.

5. Educate

These can be uncharted waters, and assumptions and misconceptions abound. Reach out to senior living communities, friends who have been there, or health care providers to educate yourself and your siblings on Mom and Dad’s health conditions, how they could evolve, and senior living options to fit their needs. Education is key to understanding the big picture. Don’t assume you know everything, and share what you’ve learned with your siblings while graciously listening to what they’ve learned in return.

6. Stay in touch.

When you talk frequently with your siblings, it helps minimize misunderstandings. In-person meetings are great, but don’t discount the ease of a group text message, emails or Skype calls. And remember, breathe.

This can be a difficult time for you, your siblings and your parents, but knowing how to manage disagreements and challenges can help you and your family get through this in the healthiest and least-conflicted way. At Melrose, we’re used to helping family members navigate the dynamics of moving in to a senior living community when it’s time for Mom and Dad to get more care. Need any help or want any advice on dealing with it for your situation? Give us a call at 319-341-7893 – we’ll be glad to help!

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