Elderly couple embrace in their home

Family Affair: Finding Solutions for Aging Parents Together

Inspīr Senior Living Team

Navigating the nuances of aging can be uncharted territory for the entire family. As it becomes clear that your parent needs additional caregiving or assisted living, it’s not uncommon for tensions to rise among adult children or other family members. Ideally, siblings would be able to recognize the needs of the parents, voice their opinions, and come up with solutions together as a family. However, this isn’t always the case. We all have different life experiences, opinions and judgements. This can make finding solutions for an aging parent quite difficult, especially when there are a number of different people involved in the decision-making process. However, with effort, compassion and clear communication, siblings can work together to make appropriate health decisions that fit the needs of their aging parents without conflict or drama.


Common Issues that Cause Family Conflict

According to Forbes Magazine, there are a number of common situations that often spark conflict among siblings when it comes to making health-related decisions for an aging parent. Here are some of the most common issues and how to solve them effectively:


  • Perception of Need. Conflict often arises when there are differing opinions on how much care an aging parent needs. There may be one sibling who is unaware or unable to recognize a parent’s decline in health while another may believe hiring a caregiver or looking into an assisted living community is the best option. In other situations, “guilt can be a driver in decision-making, especially for the sibling who isn’t around much and feels the need to step in,” according to the Forbes article.


Solution: One solution to understanding your parent’s needs is to bring in an outside party to assess the situation.  You may consider arranging a visit to your parent’s primary care physician or arrange for a geriatric care manager to visit your loved one’s home for a safety evaluation. This can help bring clarity to the situation and offer solutions for next steps.


  • Sharing the Caregiving Responsibilities. In a perfect situation, caregiving responsibilities would be equally shared between siblings. However, that very rarely happens. In fact, according to a report published by AARP, the average family caregiver is the adult daughter who spends roughly twenty hours a week caring for her parents. Uneven distribution of caregiving duties can often lead to resentment and sour feelings between siblings.


Solution: Communicate your needs. If you’re a caregiver who does all the heavy lifting, it’s important to communicate how your siblings can help and what you need from them. Oftentimes, there may be only one local child who finds themselves with the bulk of the responsibility for their parent. Long-distance siblings can still play a role in caregiving, but it’s important to communicate what this will look like for your family.


  • Financial Decisions. Everyone has a different, individual approach to managing their finances, so it’s not uncommon for siblings to experience conflict when it comes to making financial decisions on behalf of their aging parents. However, when siblings fight over money, it’s easy for them to lose sight of what really matters—their loved one. When siblings argue over inheritance or covering costs of their parents’ care out of their own pockets, things can escalate quickly.


Solution: Seek outside support from a financial planner, elder care attorney, or a professional mediator. These professionals will be able to provide unbiased suggestions on how to meet your loved one’s needs while also making fiscally responsible decisions. Keep in mind it may be impossible to make decisions that all siblings support. In this case, it’s important to compromise and focus on the bigger task at hand.


  • End of Life Care. End-of-life care arrangements should always be completed before it’s necessary. This includes assigning a health and financial power of attorney, a living will, funeral arrangements, etc. However, this isn’t always the case. If time allows, start these conversations with your parents. It will save you time and energy and help you avoid conflict down the line. If your parents have not made these arrangements, there are many resources available to adult children to help with navigating these conversations through The Conversation Project.  


Tips for Preventing and Solving Conflict

Every family will encounter conflicts and disagreements while working together to support their aging parents. Navigating the aging process and working within the healthcare industry is difficult and emotional. However, there are a few things that may make working through conflict feel a little easier. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you and your siblings work to support your aging parents:

  • Hold family meetings each week. As soon as siblings become involved in their parents’ care, they should hold family meetings to promote communication and consistency. Don’t wait until there is an emergency or tension building up to begin these meetings. In addition, it’s important for adult parents to have conversations with their children about how they envision their future and what roles they see each child playing in their care.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak. Each sibling should feel comfortable voicing their concerns to their family members. One sibling may feel uncomfortable performing hands-on caregiving tasks but be willing to manage finances or other logistics. Hearing how siblings prefer to be involved can make dividing tasks and responsibilities easier for everyone.
  • Understand inter-family relationships. Each sibling may have a different relationship with their parent. It’s important for other siblings to respect this and help find ways to keep them involved in the process. Oftentimes, the caregiving responsibilities are not equally divided between each sibling. Instead of forcing each person to contribute equally, each sibling has the right to do what they are comfortable doing, even if it means bringing in outside care.

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