A parent’s declining health can either draw a family together or break it apart. Siblings may fail to take equal responsibility for caregiving and financial needs, often falling into the roles they held as children.
The problem may be exacerbated during the holidays. The quarreling of siblings may drown out jingle bells and Christmas carols during the family celebration.
11 Rules to Work Together to Care for An Aging Parent
- Don’t discuss divisive issues during the holidays. You and your siblings may have noticed your parent’s health issues only now, but that doesn’t mean you have to interrupt the holiday celebration to discuss it. Schedule a time for the entire family to meet in person, via Skype, GoToMeeting or another free online app.
- Don’t invite your parent to the first meeting, because you may discuss some issues that would hurt, anger or embarrass him or her. You may not ever want to invite your parent to a meeting with all of you, because he or she may feel defensive. An option is to work together as a family, then have one sibling be the liaison with mom or dad.
- Develop a plan before it’s needed. You don’t want to deal with the big issues without a plan. Your parent may only have bruises now from bumping into things. Don’t wait until they fall before you take action.
- Deal with nondivisive issues first. For example, if you all agree to pay an equal share to help your parent, make that the basis for the first meeting.
- Try not to fall into old family patterns. Don’t bring up past conflicts.
- If necessary, bring in a mediator to keep you all in line. Mediator services are available almost everywhere for a surprisingly reasonable fee. If you prefer, ask respected clergy or a counselor.
- Establish a goal for each meeting. Establish caretaking roles during one meeting. Appoint someone to ask your parents for financial documents. Appoint another sibling to arrange for a Durable Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Power of Attorney.
- Table the discussion if the issue becomes heated. Use productive conflict management strategies, such as depersonalizing, changing perspectives, and preventing personal attacks.
- Treat the meeting like you would a business meeting. You wouldn’t jump up and call your colleague names, so don’t do it in the family meeting. If necessary, develop rules of behavior. You wouldn’t put forth a suggestion without supporting evidence in a business meeting, so do your research.
- Resolve intractable issues democratically. If the majority agrees your parent would be healthier, happier and safer in an Assisted Living community, the one dissenter has to go along with them and pay his or her share.
- Show your gratitude. You already know responsibilities are not going to be evenly divided. They never have been. If you’re not the primary caregiver, show your gratitude to the primary caregiver.
Your parent’s voice
The rest of your family may be united, but what about your parent? Parents, unfortunately, don’t always go along with the best-laid plans of their children. How do you communicate—and, if necessary, persuade—your parent to follow your plan? Don’t reject our newest eBook, “How to Persuade Your Aging Parent to Consider Assisted Living” just because you have no plans for Assisted Living: It also offers important tips on communicating with your parent and your parent’s doctor.