When Siblings Disagree About a Senior Loved One

When you have a sibling, you have someone who understands you and your childhood more than anyone else. However, there are many challenges that can come with the adult sibling relationship, including when parents begin to age and decline. What can you do if your adult siblings disagree about what comes next for your parents? We have seen a lot of family disagreements during our time at CaringGivers and we always aim to provide an outside point of view that can provide a bit of guidance and peace. Here are a few things we have learned on the way that you can apply to your situation.

It’s a High-Stress Situation

First things first, everyone must understand that watching mom or dad struggle makes things much more stressful. In these high-stress situations, it is common for siblings to feel out of control and to begin to return to the roles they carried in childhood. For example, the oldest might become a perfectionist and take control while the youngest might feel like their opinion doesn’t matter. The sibling who was always the jokester will likely return to that role too. All of this can revive past arguments or insecurities.

If you are disagreeing with your siblings, remind yourself this is a high-stress situation and that while everyone is trying to do their best, everyone is likely feeling sad, scared, and anxious.

Learn More From the Primary Caregiver

In almost all families, there is a person who serves in a primary caregiver role. This might be the daughter that lives down the street and checks in on the parents a few times per week, or it might be the son who lives far away but coordinates all care and checks in daily via a video chat. These primary caregivers know a lot about what is really happening in the home, so rely on their experience and opinion.

The primary caregiver might know that mom gets more confused in the evenings, which other siblings may have never noticed. They may also know about dad’s bruised arm that he got from a fall but never talks about when family calls. Pay close attention to the primary caregiver’s emotional and physical health too; they can often suffer from caregiver burnout long before anyone else realizes there are some challenges at home.

Talk to the Parents

If possible, have a family meeting over a meal to talk with everyone about how things are going. Your parents should be active participants in the conversation, as it is about them. If possible, have them talk about how things are going, how they feel, what they are struggling with. Brainstorm ways you can all bring them the support or resources they need to feel safe and healthy. 

Work Together

When possible, rally your siblings to work together to support your parents. Everyone can’t necessarily drop off meals or drive them to physician appointments and that is okay. Those who are too far away to do the more hands-on support can be in charge of taking care of Medicare enrollment or ordering medications from the pharmacy to be delivered. 

Talk About Other Things

Sibling relationships are complex even without the stress of aging parents. Be sure you are making a conscious effort to talk about things other than your parents when you speak with your siblings. Send a funny text every once in a while or have a meal where you make a pact to not talk about caregiver stress. This will remind you of all the other reasons you love your sibling, even if you disagree about your parents.

Get an Outside Opinion

Finally, it can be very helpful to get an outside opinion on the situation. Enlist the expertise of your mom’s physician or schedule a consultation with a home care agency like CaringGivers. Professionals who specialize in senior care are able to offer a more objective view of how things are going, what the future may look like, and the support that should be in place in order to keep everyone safe and healthy.

You and your siblings are doing what you think is best for your parents. Give one another grace, make sure everyone is heard, and work together to get your parents the support they need. Good luck!

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