As the baby boomer generation continues to age, it’s becoming more common for their children to begin having discussions regarding their parents’ care. Talking to your siblings about your aging parents, however, can present several challenges as brothers and sisters often disagree about how to help their parents adjust to health changes that make day-to-day tasks challenging.
Here are some suggestions for how to start a discussion with your family and hopefully remedy disagreements about your parents’ care:
Include Your Parents in the Discussion
Parents tend to be forgotten by their children when it comes to discussing a parent’s care. Your parents’ participation is essential, though, as the decisions you and your siblings make directly affect them.
Allow your mom or dad to voice their opinion, but also be honest regarding their options. If your parent still wants to drive, for example, but has been in several accidents in the past few months, you and your siblings need to explain that driving is no longer an option. Sometimes hard choices – such as taking the keys away or involving your parents’ physician – may be necessary- and it is imperative that family members are in agreement.
Your parents’ opinion can also help you and your siblings move forward with decisions. If your parents are interested in an option, such as moving to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), then it’s easier to begin touring communities and finding out what’s available, instead of continuing to debate among your siblings. Encourage everyone to be a part of the process- including reading the contracts, understanding fees, and visiting facilities.
If your parents don’t already have a designated Power of Attorney- for medical and financial decisions- then have that discussion and visit an attorney to have the necessary documents prepared. This also applies to wills, trusts or any other estate planning documents that will be vital to having your parents involved in decision making.
Children often become their parents’ caregivers over time, such as by driving them to appointments, picking up items from the store, preparing meals and more. Caring for a parent is an immense amount of work and responsibility, and it can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining.
Understand that your brother or sister may be committing most of their free time to helping your parents, which can make them confrontational in discussions. They may feel you don’t understand the time and effort they are giving to care for your parents — this is common in situations where every sibling, except for one, lives out-of-state or a substantial distance from their parents and are unable to help care for their mom or dad.
Listen to your sister or brother’s concerns and allow them to share their frustrations. Beginning discussions about your mom or dad’s care with an argument doesn’t lead to a productive discussion. If you disagree with a suggestion, such as hiring an in-home nurse, voice it in a logical, non-confrontational manner and provide an alternative option.
Continuous communication is an important factor when discussing care options for your parents, especially if siblings live far away and are only able to keep in touch through long distance communication. Leaving siblings out of discussions can lead to more frustration and arguments.
If you and your siblings discussed a CCRC, for example, and you’re touring locations with your parents, update your brothers or sisters on your parents’ response, as well as their impression of the community. You should also provide them with information about the cost, amenities and services of each location.
Use a Professional
Family dynamics may make counseling a suitable option for talking to your siblings about your parents’ care. Family mediators can ease tense situations or disagreements, while also helping you and your siblings communicate better about your concerns or opinions. Mediators are also equipped to hold sessions over the phone through conference calls, which lets them talk to you and your family regardless of where you reside. Many areas have geriatric care managers who specialize in helping families navigate the many options and services available.
Some family counselors specialize in the area of care for older parents. Their expertise can help your family members share their feelings in a productive and considerate manner and also provide suggestions for your family’s concerns.
If your parent should no longer drive, for example, but you’re unable to help, your counselor may suggest speaking to their clergy or physician for assistance.
Choosing a Care Option for Your Parents
CCRCs are an option many families choose when discussing their parents’ care because they provide independence, as well as any supportive care your parents need. At Cornwall Manor, we’ve provided compassionate care for older adults for more than 65 years and have served as a resource for families.
As one of our residents describes, “The sense of freedom in living here is so refreshing. Our home is perfect for us and the people, both residents and staff, are consistently wonderful…Our children are happy for us.” Learn more about our options, amenities and services by contacting us today.