Caregiving puts strain on sibling ties

Communication key to handling tension.
By Cindy Kranz, Contributing Writer 8:43 PM Monday, June 11, 2012
You want to use your mother’s inheritance money, intended for you and your siblings, to get extra home care for her. Your siblings disagree. Your brothers live in the same city as your aging parents. They’re unhappy with you, because you live six states away and don’t do enough to help. You and your siblings saw little signs that your dad’s health was deteriorating. One day, he has a major health crisis and needs a caregiver. The sibling sparring matches begin, peppered with, “I told you so. I don’t want to have to deal with this problem. You take care of it. You don’t ever listen to what I have to say anyway, so you just do it.” As parents age, issues of caregiving have the potential to create as much tension among siblings as their childhood fights over toys. Siblings can be torn further apart or brought closer together. “Based on our experience in dealing with family members, if the disposition for sibling discord was there before, it only intensifies and gets worse with these issues,” said Bruce Hobbs, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Cincinnati. The business is part of a network of 1,000 independently owned franchises that provide nonmedical in-home care services. Paul and Lori Hogan, founders of the Omaha, Neb.-based Home Instead Senior Care, partnered with sibling relationships expert Dr. Ingrid Connidis of the University of Western Ontario, to develop The 50-50 Rule. The rule refers to the average age when siblings are caring for parents, as well as the need for brothers and sisters to equitably divide and share responsibilities for their aging parents. Results of a 2011 survey conducted by The Boomer Project for Home Instead revealed: • An inability to work together often leads to one sibling becoming responsible for the bulk of caregiving in 43 percent of families. • 46 percent of caregivers say their sibling relationships have deteriorated, and their brothers and sisters are unwilling to help. • 64 percent of youngest siblings are primary caregivers, compared with 57 percent of oldest siblings and 49 percent of middle siblings.
5 minefields
Five situations are hot-button triggers for discord among siblings: illness, finances, inheritance, distance and stress. Illness is the No. 1 trigger, Hobbs said. For example, he knows of a family whose dad has dementia and now refuses to take a bath. Everybody in the family is frustrated trying to figure out how to get him to bathe. “If there are multiple siblings involved, these are the kinds of issues that undoubtedly begin to create conflict and strife between the siblings. One may have an opinion about how it needs to be handled, and the others may totally disagree,” Hobbs said. “Until you figure out how to get past that, the solution, which is really what’s good for dad or what’s good for mom, can’t begin to move forward because we’re spending all of our energy fussing with one another back and forth trying to win the territory.” Finances and inheritance are two separate issues, but they sometimes can be bundled, Hobbs said. Mom and dad might not have the money to pay for their care or their finances are very tight. If parents are lucky enough to have means, siblings don’t always necessarily agree on the ultimate destiny for that inheritance. The biggest solution to all hot-button issues, Hobbs said, is communication. The first thing is to sit down and discuss parent needs and issues. Then, keep lines of communication open. “It’s understanding that there’s a problem and then having the communication. It takes commitment from everybody to set up those scheduled times to talk.”

~ by Butch on June 18, 2012.

One Response to “Caregiving puts strain on sibling ties”

  1. This is an excellent article. It speaks to something we see all the time: Money that is assumed will be passed on to children. It makes for very hard feelings when they find out that money is now tight and needs to be spent on the parents care. Some kids take it anyway by convincing the parents to hand it over – and then the parents must do without care so their kids can get “what is coming to them”. Ungrateful kids.

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