December 22, 2010
Family caregiving doesn't typically run smoothly when brothers and sisters caring for seniors can't agree. Three key factors, more than any others, will influence if relationships between the adult children will deteriorate, and whether the quality of care to the parent will be compromised, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care® network. Those factors are the adult children's ability to make important decisions together; their ability to divide the caregiving workload; and their level of teamwork.
It's difficult when aging parents believe that their adult children are experiencing family conflict as a result of caregiving issues. "My impression is that parents end up getting help when their children disagree, but I think the more common problem is that it's hard on elderly parents to know their children are in conflict," said Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., sibling relationships expert from the University of Western Ontario.
"I think for most it's bad enough they already need the help of their children, but if their situation is causing conflict it's especially tough," said Connidis, who worked with the Home Instead Senior Care network on the 50-50 Rule® public education program for sibling caregivers.
According to the website Caring.com, family feuds often revolve around the following areas (link opens in a new window):
Roles and rivalries dating back to childhood. Mature adults often find that they're back in the sandbox when their family gets together. This tendency can grow even more pronounced under the strain of caregiving.
Disagreements over an elder's condition and capabilities. It's common for family members to have very different ideas about what's wrong with a loved one and what should be done about it. You may be convinced that your family member is no longer capable of driving, while your brothers argue that he needs to maintain his independence.
Disagreements over financial matters, estate planning, family inheritance and other practical issues. How to pay for a family member's care is often a huge cause of tension. Financial concerns can influence decisions about where the person should live, whether or not a particular medical intervention is needed, and whether he can afford a housekeeper. These conflicts are often fueled by ongoing resentment over income disparities and perceived inequities in the distribution of the family estate.
Burden of care. Experts say the most common source of discord among family members occurs when the burden of caring for an elder isn't distributed equally. Home Instead Senior Care research reveals that in 43 percent of U.S. families and 41 percent of Canadian families, one sibling has the responsibility for providing most or all of the care for mom or dad. "Usually one of the adult children in the family takes on most of the caregiving tasks," says Donna Schempp, program director at the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org) a national nonprofit organization that provides information and support to caregivers.
Engaging parents in caregiving issues is important, Dr. Connidis said, and so are family meetings that involve a third party if necessary. A third-party resource, particularly a professional such as a doctor or geriatric care manager, can provide an impartial voice of reason. "Talking before a crisis is best," she said. "Talk to one another about perceptions of what happens if seniors need help, how available you would be, and the options that you and your family would consider."
Please download the guide: 50/50 Rule® Brochure (PDF 950K).
These articles and resources can help you and your brothers and sisters avoid family conflict.
- Top Five Sibling Caregiver Hot Buttons
- Sharing the Care: Tips for Adult Siblings Caring for Aging Parents
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