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Coping with Discord among Siblings

By Rick Cohen, 6:23 pm on

At Home Care Assistance of Milwaukee, we believe that a cohesive family unit is the foundation for quality care for an aging parent. However, when caring for an aging parent, sibling relationships can become increasingly tense and stressful. The consensus among family is always to provide the highest level of care to the parent, but the journey there is not always easy. Sowe’ve provided a few common situations that arise when siblings care for parents and what can be done to help resolve any conflicts.

  • Coping with the Legacy of Family Dynamics
    When siblings are faced with caring for their elderly parents, unresolved issues from childhood are likely to come to the forefront. Conflicts regarding the care of the parent can quickly escalate, sometimes causing siblings to revert to past roles. For instance, the eldest will be forced to take on the most responsibility while other siblings take a step back. However, when siblings understand that past arguments and strained relationships make it more difficult to provide quality care for their parents, caregiving as a unit canpresentan invaluable opportunity to come together and heal old wounds. Siblings need to sit down together and openly discuss problems with another, even if they are underlying issues from years ago.
  • Open Communication
    Unfortunately, the burden of care often falls on one member of the family, receiving little to no help from siblings. In this situation, the primary caregiver needs to open the lines of communication, ensuring that all siblings are aware of the health of their parent and are informed and included in regards to decisions involving their parent’s care at home. A family member who lets their siblings know their input and assistance is wanted, is more likely to receive help than one who remains silent. When help is offered, the primary caregiver should allow their sibling to choose the way they assist, helping to minimize conflicts. Some may be more comfortable with housekeeping, grocery shopping or providing transportation to doctor appointments. Demonstrating willingness to compromise encourages siblings to remain engaged, and the “divide and conquer” approach ensures continuity of care for the elder adult.
  • When Siblings Won’t Help
    There are circumstances when other family members can’t or won’t help with caregiving. Physical distance, work commitments or raising children are all common reasons why a sibling may not be able to provide maximum assistance. When this happens, it is important for the primary caregiver to find a way to work past negative emotions and move forward. Harboring resentment, frustration and anger adds to caregiver stress and makes it harder to deliver quality care. Resources are available outside of the family unit that can help primary caregivers cope with the strain of caregiving. This can be found in a local support group or respite care from a reputable care agency.

If your family needs assistance caring for an aging parent or loved one, contact Home Care Assistance today. With flexible scheduling and consistent updating of senior care plans, our skilled and compassionate caregivers can provide assistance on a basis that meets the needs of your entire family. For more information or to schedule a complimentary in-home consultation, contact a devoted Care Manager today at 414-964-8000.