When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, having family members by your side can be a tremendous help – mentally, physically, and financially. But there are also times when having to consider more than one opinion on the “right” care can cause great strife between relatives.
There are three common scenarios where conflict frequently plays out among siblings:
Keeping Mom or Dad in Their Own Home.
This conflict often occurs when one parent passes away, leaving the remaining parent, who may also be in declining health, alone in the home. Wanting to keep mom or dad in their home may sound like a cost-effective solution, but changes to their home may be required to make it accessible (e.g., ramps). In some cases, the home can be the least safe and practical place to be.
Moving Mom or Dad In with Adult Child.
If one sibling feels it is their duty to care for their aging parent, it can create a challenging dynamic with other siblings who either can’t or don’t want to assist with caregiving. Resentments can begin to fester if one sibling feels they are taking on more of the physical or financial demands than another sibling.
Moving Mom or Dad into a Care Facility.
In this situation, the adult child feels that in a care facility, mom and dad will have access to the services they need and be cared for by professionals. It may even be that the adult child doesn’t have the bandwidth (emotionally, financially, or timewise) to take on their parents’ care. This is a challenging disagreement to reconcile since these options (remaining in a private home or moving to a care facility) are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Averting Conflict Between Siblings.
It’s invaluable for parents to sit down with their adult children to discuss their wishes for how they will be cared for as they grow older. There are several legal documents (e.g., living will, power of attorney) that parents should create to take the guesswork out of their care wishes. Parents can even consider moving into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) while they are still healthy, which may alleviate potential tension between siblings.
The Bottom Line.
When making choices about caring for an aging parent, one of the most important things that siblings can do is to remember they are ultimately on the same team. For those who hope to avert disagreements between their adult children, discussions and advanced planning can simplify difficult decisions down the road.