Caregiving and Sibling Relationships (part 3 of 3) – Multiple Decision Makers

Caring for an aging parent can put stress on sibling relationships even if they have been close in the past.  The first of this series discussed the situation where one sibling was handling the majority of the decisions and care, but what happens when everyone wants to be involved?  How do you decide who is in charge or how decisions are made?

The Issues with Multiple Decision makers

The main problem with having several people involved in decisions is that it can take longer to get the actual decision made.  Reaching a consensus can take time and involve a lot of negotiations between all the siblings.  While this may not be a problem most of the time, it can delay care for critical health problems when one or more persons do not agree with a treatment plan.

Another problem with having the adult children all involved with every aspect of the senior’s care is that they may focus on winning their point of view rather than on what is best for the parent.  It can become a battle of wills where the parent is the one who loses.

Old sibling rivalries can be revived as children who fight to have control or concern themselves with who is the favourite child.  This can cause them to lose focus on what really matters in the situation.  Added to this issue are the emotions of each one of the children who are facing the aging of their parents.  For those who had a close relationship with one or both parents, the inevitability of their loss of independence and death can trigger deep feelings.  For the children that may have had a challenging relationship with their parents, they may be dealing with guilt or anger that can affect their decisions.

How to Deal With the Situation

Before it gets to the point where the senior parents need the care and the assistance from the children, all the siblings need to sit down together with their parents and have an in-depth conversation on their future needs.  The parents’ wishes should be made known and everyone should know their role in the caregiving.  Guidelines should be established on decision-making to prevent problems in the future.

If all siblings want to be involved in every aspect of their parents’ care, plans need to be in place for how this will work.  For instance, one sibling may go with the parent to the doctor appointments and then send an email to let the rest know what happened.  This way, they will all know what is going on.

If more than one sibling wants to be responsible for the physical care of the parents, they can take turns.  Schedules can be set up with one sibling assisting them on certain days and another one provides their care on other days.  If the parents will be living with the children, the siblings can take turns hosting the parents.  This prevents one person from feeling overwhelmed, but it only works if the parents are happy with the arrangement.

Dealing with Finances as a Group

Finances are one issue that gets tricky when there is more than one decision making sibling.  As much as possible, the children should get their parents involved in these decisions.  When this is not possible, discussions should be made when everyone is present either in person or over the phone so that all of the siblings have a chance to provide their opinion.

Besides the daily care of parents, many other decisions have to be made.  Some of these can be talked about beforehand to make things easier at the time of need.  These topics include:

  • Choosing an assisted living facility.
  • End-of-life decisions if the parent has not made arrangements.
  • Funeral plans.

None of these topics are easy to discuss but it is better to have the conversations before intense emotions get involved in the midst of the situation.

What Happens When You Cannot Agree

There will be times when you will disagree about a decision that needs to be made regarding some aspect of your parents’ care.  What do you do at a moment like that?  For sibling groups of three or more, you can use the standard “majority rules” view.  Another option is to get another family member involved in the decision process such as a brother or sister of that parent or a close friend.  Sometimes an outside perspective can help the family reach an agreement.

We at Carefect Homecare Services can help take some of the tasks off the family members.  Our caregivers can provide services such as personal care, respite care, light housekeeping, running errands, and other tasks that will allow the family members to spend more quality time with their senior loved ones.