When we get together with our siblings, we often seem to fall into the same patterns we had when we were kids. There’s the bossy oldest one, the youngest one who’s still seen as helpless even if they are running a corporation and raising a family of their own, the one who doesn’t like family conflict, and the one who feels they have to shout everyone down to be heard. There are many more permutations of sibling and family dynamics – and they can make talking about serious, adult family issues very challenging.
Perhaps you visited Mom and Dad at Thanksgiving and are concerned about their well-being. (Click here to read about what to look out for when visiting virtually or in person.) You’d like to talk with your siblings about what, if anything, you should be doing, but you aren’t sure how to bring up the topic. You are not alone! How to help aging parents is one of the biggest challenges adult children face.
Here are some ideas about how to get the conversation going:
- Pick an appropriate time and place. You don’t want to “spring” this on your siblings. Find a time that works for all of you, meet on Zoom (we all know how to do it now!) if you can’t meet face-to-face, and make sure everyone knows the topic is caring for Mom and Dad.
- Set ground rules at the beginning of the conversation. No squabbling! You might start out the meeting by allowing each sibling to talk with no cross-talk allowed – meaning they can just talk while everyone else listens without making any comment about what the person said. Just knowing their concerns are heard can make a huge difference in how they step up to help.
- Share your stories. Let them know why you are concerned. You may find they have similar stories and have also felt concerned, but didn’t know how to bring it up. If you have medical reports, hospitalization records, or any tangible evidence showing your parents need extra help, share that with them ahead of time. Share your screen on Zoom to review the documents together.
- Ask for input. And don’t ask just so they can’t say you didn’t… really listen to their ideas. Your little sister is no longer 5 and may have experience and expertise you didn’t know she had!
- Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that because Bob is staying home to take care of the kids and lives close to Mom and Dad that he has all the time in the world to add caring for them to his roster. Don’t assume that because Jenn is single, she can drop her life in a faraway city and move back home.
- Offer to help. When you make a realistic offer about what you can do to help out, it will encourage your siblings to do the same. If it sounds like someone is taking on too much, gently ask if the commitment is realistic.
- If you get stuck, get outside help. It’s not unusual for families to call on outside assistance to work through family caregiving issues. Look for an Eldercare Mediator, preferably in the state where your parents reside, as some states do have laws that spell out some filial obligations toward parents. A good mediator will be aware of these laws in addition to having strong family mediation skills.
Of course, once you have made the connection with your siblings, you’ll need to talk to Mom and Dad. If you all decided that someone is going to drop by or call every day to check in, for example, make sure they are willing to allow that, and find out what time is good for them.
Many families find that, if Mom and Dad want to age-in-place, they need to hire professional caregivers to help out. This can make a huge difference in the family dynamic, because you can often hire help for the more difficult personal tasks, such as bathing, allowing siblings to just enjoy time with their parents.
Assisting Hands Home Care serving Columbus Ohio’s founders had exactly that experience – when Kim Kling’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Kim and Greg moved her into their home. They had young children at the time, and Greg was on the road for work five days a week. Kim was also working outside the home, and they also didn’t feel they had the expertise to offer the care her mom needed. Professional caregivers made a real difference, and allowed them all to enjoy their family relationship.
Today Assisting Hands Home Care serving Columbus, OH is here to help your family. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation. We are committed to making sure we communicate with families so you know how your loved one is doing. Gain the peace of mind professional caregivers can bring.