Every family is different. You and your siblings may provide enormous support for one another as you talk to your aging parent about moving to an assisted living community. Your siblings may also make the situation stressful.
What To Know
Know that how your family works through this transition has almost as much to do with the past as it does with the present. Family members often revert to their childhood roles and behaviors and long-buried or forgiven grievances may resurface.
Regardless of your relationships, it’s crucial to approach your parent together. It’s less confusing and makes the situation real. If you, as siblings, can’t agree on what your parent should do, why should they?
If you believe your family can’t have constructive conversations about your parent’s future, ask an elder mediator or health care professional to facilitate. An objective third party can help guide your discussions until you find the best solution for your parent. Much like your parent, your siblings may be grappling with emotions like the stages of grief.
The Stages of Grief for Siblings
The five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are a part of the framework that can allow your siblings to learn to live with what they feel they may be losing. Here’s a closer look at the different stages of grief your siblings may experience as you broach the topic of assisted living.
Stage 1: Denial
If your sibling chooses to deny that your parent needs more help, they may be trying to protect themselves emotionally. You can present them with evidence to the contrary, but forcing the issue will only strain your relationship.
Having the discussion about assisted living may cause fear and hesitation from your sibling. They may associate assisted living with “the beginning of the end” and underneath it all may be coping with feelings of fear that moving a parent means coming to the realization that someday Mom or Dad might not be there anymore.
Stage 2: Anger
Whether your sibling accepts or denies your parent’s need for more help, they may become angry at the situation, you, or their siblings. Feelings of anger can stem from frustration that they didn’t see the warning signs themselves or may stem from their unrealistic expectation that this is something the family should be able to manage themselves.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Like your parent, your siblings may offer alternative ways that will only partially fix the situation. They might offer financial assistance for in-home care or may offer to help with caregiving.
Stage 4: Depression
When reality sets in, your sibling may withdraw and, like other stages, may act in unfamiliar ways. They may refuse to help with choosing a community or making the move happen.
Stage 5: Acceptance
As your sibling comes to terms with what your parent needs, they can help your parent — and you — plan and participate in the future.
What To Do
Have an open mind to what your siblings may have to say and contribute to the decision about your parent with these different ideas. Here are eight tips for making “the talk” with your siblings easier.
Everyone wants to feel heard. Listen to everyone’s side of the story.
2. Ask for Their Opinions
If you’ve been the primary caretaker, your siblings may feel that you don’t need or want their advice or opinions. Reach out to them with questions, and consider what they have to say.
3. Be Ready to Talk about Finances
4. Ask for Help
Your siblings may be more than willing to help, but they don’t know what they can do. Ask them how they’d like to help or give them specific tasks. Know that many times siblings don’t realize that the primary caregiver needs or even wants help.
5. Keep the Communication Lines Open
Decide how you will keep each other informed. Will you meet up or call regularly? Send email updates? When you make this decision early on, there are fewer chances for hurt feelings and information falling through the cracks.
6. Offer Proof
When a sibling doesn’t see your parent regularly, they may need proof that assisted living is necessary. If they haven’t witnessed the changes first hand and aren’t able to visit, compile a list of reasons for moving your parent to an assisted living community. If you have other siblings or family members, ask for their support.
7. Video Chat
Remember to keep your long-distance siblings informed. It’s easy to jump on Skype or FaceTime for a personal face-to-face update. Phone and email work, too.
8. Ask Long-distance Siblings for Help, too
Your long-distance sibling may think that they can’t help since they’re far away. But many tasks can be done from a distance. They can also check in more frequently with your parent. They may provide more information to your sibling or express more questions or concerns.
The stages of grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life and circumstances. Grief occurs in response to loss. Moving a parent to assisted living can be a scary thought. But with the right approach, realistic expectations about what you might encounter, and a desire to find the best possible quality of life for your parent, any challenging conversation with your siblings can be navigated.
For more tips and ideas to make having “The Talk” with your parent and siblings easier, download our guide Having “The Talk” With your Parent: It’s Time for Assisted Living.