Managing Sibling Conflict While Caring for a Parent

Sunrise Senior Living  |  October 2, 2018
Managing Sibling Conflict While Caring for a Parent
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When an aging parent needs help around the house and assistance with personal care, working in harmony with your siblings might be tricky. While most adult children want what is best for an aging parent, it might be tough to get everyone in the family to agree on what that means.

Added to those differences of opinion are busy schedules, unresolved childhood rivalries, and disagreements about financial decisions. Then there is the emotional impact of watching a parent’s health decline. It can all quickly escalate tension and stress.

We have a few tips that we think will help adult children who are struggling to find ways to work cooperatively on a parent’s behalf.

4 Tips to Help Siblings Work Together to Care for an Aging Parent

1. Needs assessment: The first step is to create a list of all the daily tasks and chores your parent needs assistance with. What kinds of personal care help do they need and how often? What household chores are they struggling with? For example, are they having difficulty with things like menu planning, grocery shopping, managing finances, or doing laundry?

Agree to put everything on the list, even if not all siblings agree that it is a problem. Faraway siblings or those who don’t see your parent as often might not fully understand how much care is really needed.

2. Sit down together: After you’ve created the list, set up a time to sit down together and talk. Long-distance siblings who can’t make arrangements to be in town can join you via Skype or another video chat service. Include your parent in the discussion if they are able to participate.

Before you begin, agree to be kind to and respectful of one another. Divide up responsibilities on the list and write down who will handle each one. If a sibling lives too far away to help on a weekly or even a monthly basis, perhaps they can pay for a weekly housekeeping service or home-delivered meals. Try to divide the list equitably among siblings.

3. Outline an emergency care plan: After you iron out all of the details of your parent’s care, agree to get started on developing an emergency plan. In most families, one sibling tends to become the primary caregiver.

If they become ill or have an emergency, you will need to have a plan in place for handling all the responsibilities they cover. It might be that you take advantage of the respite care services offered by a local assisted living community until the primary caregiver is back in action.  

4. Stay in touch: When siblings talk frequently, misunderstandings can be limited. But it’s important not to put the burden of keeping everyone in the loop on the shoulders of the already-busy primary caregiver. Designate another family member to fill this role, such as an out-of-town sibling who can’t be there to help with tasks and chores.

If you are concerned the minor squabbles among family members might lead to permanent breaks in relationships, there are several groups of professionals you can turn to for help.

  • Aging Life Care Professionals: Also known as Geriatric Care Managers, this company offers seniors and their families a variety of services that range from monitoring a loved one’s care in an assisted living community to helping connect seniors with resources in their own community.
  • Eldercare Mediators: When families just can’t agree on the best course of action for a senior loved one, an eldercare mediator can offer unbiased guidance. They can help deescalate family disagreements and help you reach a solution.

Schedule a Visit to a Sunrise Community Today

As you create a long-term plan for your parent’s care, we hope that you will keep Sunrise Senior Living in mind. We invite you to schedule a visit to a community near you to learn why leading market research firm J.D. Power recognized us as the “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Senior Living Communities” in 2018.