Sibling Rivalry: When Family Members Disagree on Senior Care Options

Appreciation to Brad Breeding, President and Co-founder of myLifeSite, for giving me permission to provide some portions of his very important and well-written article: “Sibling Rivalry: When Family Members Disagree on Senior Care Options”

“When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, having family members by your side can be a tremendous help – mentally, physically, and financially. But there are also times when having to consider more than one opinion on an issue can cause great strife between relatives.

We often see this challenge come up between adult siblings who disagree on the “right” way to care for their aging parent or parents.

There are of course exceptions, but most of the time, these discordant adult children have good intentions and truly believe theirs is the right choice for mom or dad, but their sibling may have a different idea of what is best.  It can be a really difficult situation, with siblings even severing ties with one another over such issues.

If you are a senior with adult children, you likely want to help them avoid disagreements if possible (just as you’ve been doing since they were little!). So, let’s dig into this issue of “sibling rivalry” as it relates to caring for aging parents…

When differences arise

The impetus for sibling conflicts about a parent’s care may be an injury or a terminal illness diagnosis, but they can also surface as parents begin to display normal age-related mental or physical decline.
In my observations, there are three common scenarios where this struggle frequently plays out among siblings:

1.  An adult child wants to keep Mom or Dad in their own home

This situation often occurs when one parent passes away, leaving the remaining parent, who may also be in declining health, alone in the home. (Or perhaps Mom or Dad is single to begin with.) There are a number of ways the resulting argument between siblings can go, but it might sound something like this:

• “Dad made us promise we would never send Mom to a retirement home. This is a familiar place where she is most comfortable…Mom and Dad have lived here our entire lives!”

• “But the house isn’t safe for her anymore…she can’t manage the stairs, the upkeep is too difficult, and I don’t have the time or money to take care of another house on top of my own.”

On the surface, keeping Mom or Dad in their home may sound like a cost-effective solution, but should they require changes to the home to make it accessible (such as ramps, lifts, or walk-in tubs) or if they require assistance with upkeep or activities of daily living (ADLs, such as bathing, dressing, eating, etc.) from their adult children or a home health worker; staying in the home may look a lot less desirable to one or more child, especially if the adult children live out of town or are busy caring for their own families. In some cases, the home can actually be the least safe and practical place to be.

Related3 Reasons Why Aging in Place may not be Cheaper

2.  An adult child wants Mom or Dad to move in with them (or another family member)

• As I’ve written about on many occasions, taking on the role of caregiver, either part-time or full-time, can be rewarding for some people, but it can also be an extremely difficult task.

• If one sibling feels that it is their duty and responsibility to care for their aging parent or parents, just as their parents cared for them in their childhood, it can set up a challenging dynamic with other siblings who either can’t or don’t want to assist with caregiving responsibilities.

RelatedThe Unexpected Costs of Caring for an Aging Parent

3. An adult child thinks Mom or Dad needs to be moved to a care facility 

This disagreement between siblings may be an amalgam of the previous two:

• One sibling feels that mom or dad should either remain in their own home or should move in with a family member; they believe it will be less expensive and their parents will receive better care from a loved one.

• But another sibling believes their parents would be better off in a senior living facility – either assisted living or skilled nursing care, depending on the circumstances. It may be that that child feels that in a care facility, Mom and Dad will have access to the services they need and be cared for by professionals, or it may be that the adult child doesn’t have the bandwidth (emotionally, financially, or time-wise) to take on their parents’ care.

This is a challenging disagreement to reconcile since these options (remaining in a private home or moving to a care facility) are in some ways on opposite ends of the spectrum.  This can truly leave siblings at an impasse with irreconcilable differences of opinion about what is best for Mom and Dad.

Averting crises between siblings

Of course, there are instances when an aging parent’s health situation changes very unexpectedly, but in most cases, sibling clashes can be avoided with some advanced planning by the aging parents and their adult children.”

Read about a few ways that seniors can help prevent disputes between their adult children about their long-term care needs. Click on the following to read the whole article: Sibling Rivalry: When Family Members Disagree on Senior Care Options
In addition, you will find much more by going to the myLifeSite website. My thanks once again to Brad Breeding for allowing me to utilize parts of his very well- written article.

“You may give out, but never give up.”  Mary Crowley