Providing care for an elderly parent tends to bring out the best – and the worst – in sibling relationships. Caregiving situations are fraught with anxieties, difficult decisions and heavy responsibilities. When adult children become caregivers for their parents, shifting family dynamics can make it difficult for everyone to adjust.
The Challenges of Family Caregiving
In an ideal world, providing in-home elder care to an aging parent would be a time of family unity and unwavering support among siblings. Unfortunately this is not usually the case – for a number of reasons.
Although each family is different, there are common underlying causes that cause discord among adult siblings. Such causes include:
• Denial over parents’ condition
• Old wounds or unresolved conflicts
• Past rivalries
• Troubled relationship with parent
• Unequal division of caregiving responsibilities
While one or many of these factors may come into play in the family, the last one – unequal division of responsibilities – tends to be the spark that triggers most family feuds.
Effective Ways Siblings Can Work Together
Even in a family with many children, it’s common for one sibling to take on the primary role of caregiver. Whether it’s because she lives closest to the parent, or simply feels the most obligation, in time a pattern is set in which one primary caregiver is responsible for the bulk of the parent’s care.
Changing this pattern can be difficult, but it can be done. Regardless of what is causing friction in your family, the following suggestions may help.
1. Improve Communication. Becoming a better communicator means becoming a better listener. Rather than trying to talk over your siblings to get your point across, really listen to what others are saying. Your thoughtful silence will encourage them to do the same when it’s your turn to speak.
2. Keep Everyone Informed. If you’ve assumed the position of primary caregiver – willingly or not – it’s important that you keep siblings informed of your parent’s care. For instance, if you’ve decided to utilize ClearCare’s caregiver software to help lighten your load of caregiving, let your siblings know. When everyone is aware of what’s going on, no one feels left out.
3. Be Realistic and Understanding. Don’t expect more from your siblings than is reasonable. Recognize that each of them have their own lives and families. Be flexible and willing to adapt when scheduling care so each sibling can take part.
4. Ask for Help. Be specific when reaching out for help. Tell your siblings exactly what you need and when. If you aren’t getting enough support from your siblings, seek out additional help. Hiring a homecare agency that offers ClearCare’s homecare software is an ideal way to alleviate the stress of caregiving.
Mary Brintnall-Peterson, University of Wisconsin-Extension program specialist in aging says, “Sibling relationships can enrich our lives as we age. Nurturing these relationships in later life is important, as they may be our strongest surviving support system.” Despite the painful conflicts that may arise when siblings become caregivers, working hard to resolve personal issues is essential to preserving these precious relationships. If sibling rivalries or arguments have been robbing your family of peace, take steps now to improve the situation.