When Families Feud, Senior Parents Lose

Children of elderly parents today may find themselves in a caregiving role, and often must share that role with their brothers and sisters. What happens between these siblings can be smooth or tumultuous, depending upon a number of factors. And according to research performed for the Home Instead Senior Care Network®, the ramifications of rocky sibling relationships can have a negative impact on the quality of care for the senior.
Dementia care can be particularly trying for sibling relationships. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be tricky to identify in the early stages, and the siblings may not agree on the senior’s capabilities, current condition, or need for at home care. Minnesota is home to an excellent array of home care services, enabling families to obtain personal care and companion services for senior loved ones. Making this choice provides respite care that can allow the sibling caregivers to smooth troubled waters in their family relationships.
The Home Instead Senior Care Network of Minnesota acts as the go-to resource for Minneapolis home care services, not only for Alzheimers care but for all levels of need, from an occasional home health aide to round-the-clock care. In this post we’ll cover some of the challenges that commonly occur in families with seniors who are experiencing declining mental or physical well being. Addressing these challenges through family therapy, legal counsel and respite care can make an enormous difference for both the family members and the senior.

How to Identify Family Challenges that Affect Senior Care

The most common challenges we see between siblings play out in familiar ways, including the following.

“It’s like we’re right back in childhood.” If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Adult siblings of seniors often have the same frictions crop up that they experienced as children. A desire to prove your point or a feeling that you are not being heard or respected may be a sign that your relationship with your sibling has not healed from challenges of the past.

“Mom can still take care of herself!” Some siblings may advocate assistance or enforced restrictions on a senior parent’s activities, such as driving or taking walks alone, while others feel these restrictions are demeaning to the parent and unnecessary. Some may worry that the parent is an accident waiting to happen while others feel more protective of the parent’s emotional well-being than fearful of any real or perceived dangers.

“Who is going to pay for that?” Adult siblings very commonly disagree over issues regarding estate planning, the topic of inheritance, and other financial concerns. All of these issues may crop up especially in a family where there are income disparities, perceptions that one sibling is a “favorite”, and of course anytime money and expenditures are a concern.

“When are you going to do your part?” One of the most common ailments in sibling relationships when a senior needs in home care or companion care is an inequity in the division of labor. This phenomenon, known among experts as “burden of care,” can go on for years, creating ongoing and deepening conflict among adult children who do not see eye to eye on how to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for mom or dad.

Strategies and Solutions for Feuds and Addressing Senior Needs

The challenges we’ve described, while difficult, are not insurmountable. Understanding that feuds and rivalries of this kind are common is a first step. The next step is to identify strategies to help.

Family Relationship Strategies

Dr. Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., a sibling relationships expert at the University of Western Ontario, worked with the Home Instead Senior Care Network to develop the 50-50 RuleSM  public education program for sibling caregivers. “It’s hard on elderly parents to know their children are in conflict,” Dr. Connidis said. When a family is falling apart at the seams, the senior may be the one who suffers the most. Dr. Connidis highly recommends engaging parents in their own caregiving options as much as possible. Hold family meetings and involve third parties as needed. Professionals to consider as impartial advisors may include doctors, geriatric care managers, and attorneys specializing in family legal matters.

Senior Care Strategies

Obtaining in home care is another step to consider. Again, many resources exist in the state of Minnesota. Consider calling the Home Instead Senior Care Network of MN. Or perform an internet search on terms such as “senior care Minnesota,” “Home Care Plymouth,” and “in home care Minneapolis.” Whether home care for Alzheimers related symptoms is needed, or obtaining part time attendant services can help relieve the stresses on sibling caregivers, creating a workable strategy will help to maintain well being and quality of life for the senior.

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