Caring for an older parent can bring siblings together…or create conflicts and hurt feelings that tear brothers and sisters apart. It’s easy to understand why. This may the first time you and your siblings have ever worked together as a team to take care of someone else—and the learning curve can be steep.
Figuring out how to make important decisions, share responsibilities and resolve disagreements can get a lot harder when emotions are involved and the well being of your mom or dad is front and center. But with a little planning and a lot of patience, families can learn how to pull together when things get tough.
You and your siblings have the opportunity to be an incredible source of strength and comfort for your aging parent and each other. These 9 tips can help make it happen.
- Create a plan before you need one
Aging can sneak up on your family. All too often, we wait for a family emergency to have that first conversation about our parent’s health and senior care needs. Call a family meeting early to discuss your parent’s needs and wishes before small problems turn into urgent decisions.
- Understand your parent’s wishes
Power struggles over money or control usually end badly. Unfortunately, parents don’t always communicate their wishes clearly or consistently. They may change their mind about an inheritance or power of attorney, or give siblings different information. Don’t take these decisions personally and respect your parent’s right to make them.
- Consider each other’s strengths
Oftentimes, families divvy up the responsibility of caring for an aging parent haphazardly, based on whoever lives closer, has fewer kids, more money or extra free time. Consider roles that play to your individual strengths instead, and set clear boundaries and expectations.
- Stay in touch and up to date
To make important decisions as a team, you’ll need to be on the same page. Don’t count on mom or dad telling each of you the same thing about their wants and needs. Send each other updates after doctor’s appointments, pool your observations and insights, and keep the lines of communication open.
- Ask for what you need
When you’re balancing a job and a busy family life with the care of an aging parent, it can be easy to feel stressed, resentful, even underappreciated. But your siblings can’t lend a hand or appreciate your efforts if you don’t ask for the support you need.
- Reassess shared responsibilities over time
It might be a new job, a new baby or a change in your parent’s health. But sooner or later, you and your siblings will need to adjust your roles or routine. Compromise isn’t easy, but it’s important to stay flexible, trust your support system, and look for additional sources of support.
- Acknowledge your emotional baggage
Caring for an aging parent stirs emotions and can unearth old hurts and rivalries. But you can’t fix today’s problems if you’re busy fighting yesterday’s battles. Try to see your siblings with fresh eyes and avoid making comparisons or competing with each other.
- Involve a mediator
Some problems are too complex or emotionally charged to solve yourself. That’s when you may want to consider using the services of an objective professional, like a doctor, care manager, mediator, therapist or elder care lawyer. They can help your family see new perspectives and stay focused on the issues at hand.
- Care for yourself, too
Being a caregiver isn’t easy. Learning how to share the responsibility of caring for an aging parent takes hard work, compromise and above all, compassion. Be kind to yourself and your siblings. Forgive the mistakes you’ll all make along the way. And give yourself a break—so you can give your family your best.
At BrightStar Senior Living, we’ve seen the good that family teamwork can do. The staff at our senior living communities help families work together to make confident choices and provide older adults with the care and comfort for a rewarding life. Connect with a BrightStar Senior Living community near you to learn more about our commitment to person-centered care.