Caregiving and Sibling Relationships (part 2 of 3) – Siblings With Separate Responsibilities

Caregiving for an elderly parent can be trying on the closest sibling relationship; if the relationship is strained or non-existent, it can add to the challenge.  One way that parents choose to assign responsibility is by dividing up caregiving tasks between the children.  A child that lives nearby may end up handling most of their daily care while another child may deal with the finances.  This division sounds fair and should make things easier, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Challenges of Separate Responsibilities

Giving each child their own task in the parents’ care should make things easier but it doesn’t always work that way.  Instead, it can complicate matters as one child has to get permission from another one to complete their duties.  For instance, imagine a scenario where a parent is advised to get a treatment for an illness and the child with the medical power of attorney agrees to the treatment.  If this treatment isn’t covered by insurance or is only partially covered, they will have to get the bill paid by the child who has the financial power of attorney.  If that adult child doesn’t agree with the treatment, they may refuse to pay for it.  Now you have a standoff between the two siblings.

In cases like these where the parent still has full mental capabilities, both siblings should ask for the parent’s opinion on how to handle the situation.  However, if the parent has dementia and is incapable of making decisions, a resolution has to be reached between the two siblings.

How to Work Together

How do you work together when you disagree?  Sit down and have a family meeting.  Discuss the reservations each person has with certain decisions and try to work through them.  Keep the senior family member the centre of your focus and you will probably be able to work things out.

If neither one of you are willing to compromise on your view of your parents’ care, you may need to work with an outside professional.  Some places have a geriatric manager who can manage your parents’ daily care without the emotional attachment.  This is not an ideal situation but it does allow decisions to be made in a timely manner.

Another option if you do not want to hand over your parents’ care to a stranger is to seek family counselling.  A professional counsellor can help you work through your issues and work towards a resolution.  They can give advice on handling other issues in the future so you can work as a team.

If you absolutely cannot work together and one or more persons are not willing to meet for a counselling session, you can contact a mediator that is trained in family disputes.  They can often prevent the issues from escalating into a court fight.

Plan Ahead of Time

If you know that problems are likely to occur, have a meeting with your parents before any decisions are made.  The time to prevent these issues is before they have drawn up the paperwork.  Let them know your feelings on the issue and see what can be done to create a more congenial environment later on.  Your parents can express their wishes in writing while they are still able.  Some of the things they can plan for include:

  • Provisions for end of life care such as feeding tubes and extreme measures.
  • Plans for who they will live with or which assisted living facility they will go to when they can no longer stay at home.
  • Create a trust for their finances and dictate how it should be managed.
  • Provide directives for possible treatments to improve or prolong a life.
  • List an outside manager if family cannot agree; this person can be a life-long friend or other relative.

While these measures won’t prevent issues, it can ensure that the adult children are aware of their parents’ wishes.  This can make it easier for you to make the right decisions when the situation is left up to you.

One thing that can help during this time is hiring a caring homecare services company to assist with the care for your parents.  Our caregivers at Carefect Homecare Services can take some of the responsibilities off the family members by helping with personal care and doing tasks such as laundry or running errands.  We can also provide respite care to keep you from feeling overwhelmed so that you can deal with other challenges.  Sometimes having outside help can make it easier for families to work together.