Caregiving requires time and effort. There are always conflicting opinions about it. Here is a guide on how to deal with family disagreement about caregiving.
No matter how close a family you are, conflicts and disagreements simmer now and then. So, when it comes to taking care of our parents and other family members, the siblings may or may not disagree about the same.
While the best solution to such conflicts is to sit and have a detailed conversation about the issues, many of us cannot do so because we are afraid, confused, or maybe just in pain over som issues in the past
However, there are certain tried and tested ways to deal with family disagreement about caregiving. Today, we shall discuss the same. If you are going through something similar currently, this article will provide you with a solution.
Why Does Family Disagreement Happen in the First Place?
When it comes to taking care of our parents or family members in their old age, the sole purpose of each sibling should be to make them healthy again. However, it is human nature to come up with disagreement before settling for a solution that works for all, and this situation is no different.
Unresolved past issues, childhood wounds/disrespect by other siblings, misunderstandings, personal grudges, etc., are some of the reasons that mainly give rise to further conflicts at the time of caregiving.
The siblings who are good at communicating and resolving their issues during conflict usually agree on the way ahead for caregiving when needed. Thus, to avoid future conflicts, it is better to clarify the issues exactly when they arise instead of carrying them as baggage over the years.
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What Usually Causes Caregiving Disagreement/Conflicts
As mentioned already, clashes generally erupt when there has already been a spat (which is quite common amongst siblings) in the past, and the issue remains unresolved. All the siblings can bring up their past problems and cover them in the name of caregiving conflict.
Even so, caregiving disagreement is quite possible and frequent amongst siblings who communicate their issues frequently and clearly with each other. Hence, here are some common reasons that lead to caregiving conflicts amongst people.
Disagreement about the amount of care needed
People do not look at caregiving the same way. One sibling might feel that the parent figure is fit enough to take care of themselves and ask for help whenever needed.
However, the other sibling might not feel the same way and consider being there for the parent 24/7, so they do not have to worry about anything. While they both might be correct in their perspectives, it is bound to give rise to a disagreement.
How to resolve –
Well, the first thing you can ask for an expert opinion is to ask about their condition from their doctor and then come to a common solution. This would solve many confusions and issues related to caregiving. You will also learn about the current body condition of your parents and act accordingly.
If the doctor suggests that they need constant care and love, then perhaps, one of you can stay with them for a few months until their situation improves. Suppose all the siblings remain away from their parent’s home.
In that case, you can visit them alternatively, during a weekend or so, while putting them under in-home caregiving service or admitting them in a senior care home. However, we would personally suggest you ask the opinion and wishes of your parent or elderly loved one about how they would like to go about it.
Many older people get quite uncomfortable with the idea of leaving their own home and spending their precious time in an old house or care. So, suppose they are not okay with shifting to external maintenance.
In that case, perhaps, it is best to hire in-house help for them but make sure that you interview the agency and learn about the experience and reviews related to the professional you are willing to hire for your loved one.
One sibling does all the heavy work
While it is a good thing to create a balance in sharing caregiving responsibilities amongst the siblings, one should also understand that if one sibling is doing all the heavy work, such as living/moving in with the parents, taking them to the doctors, preparing or assisting in preparing their meals, keeping up with their schedules/routines, etc.
In contrast, other siblings stay away in another city and only learn about their day-to-day progress and add financial help (without doing the heavy work). It will be a problem, and the conflict, at some point, is simply unavoidable.
How to resolve –
Every caregiver should communicate their needs and ways of helping in a family meeting. If one sibling is closer to their parents, they can provide emotional and in-person support to the elderly. Suppose another wants to stay away and is not emotionally connected to the parent who needs care.
In that case, they can continue their life in their own home while completely taking care of finances and scheduling appointments, etc. However, this is just a suggestion to balance the responsibilities.
You should sit down with your family and have a serious discussion about this so that none of you should think that they are doing the heavy work while others are simply sitting away and enjoying their life.
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Exclusion from decision-making
Often, the elder siblings make the most important decisions related to parent care, which is expected and completely fine, as long as they include the younger sibling. While this worked as children, as an adult, even the elder siblings have to treat the younger ones with respect and include them in the decision-making process.
How to resolve –
Communication is the only key here, and the sooner it is done, the better. Most families have unresolved issues or problems simply because they do not communicate because avoidance is better than discomfort.
So, it would help if you shared your thoughts and feelings with your siblings via text, messages, call, email, etc. We would suggest you have a family meeting, talk to everyone face-to-face, and then go ahead with the decision.
It would be so much better to include your sibling’s ideas and suggestions in the decision-making process as well. It makes them feel good and improves your relationship in the future.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything they say. Discuss the concerned matter, but do not give in to every demand. Remember, the safety and health of your parents or older members must always be the priority, even if some family members cannot understand it and raise the conflict for no reason.
One or more siblings ignoring their caregiving role
Once the discussion has taken place, and everyone has understood their role in taking care of the parents, they should responsibly perform their task. However, there are times when one sibling unknowingly ignores their position due to other commitments or issues.
While it is okay to fill in for them once in a while, you should talk about their ignorance when it is deemed right. Many children have a toxic or unstable relationship with their parents. Thus, they often do not take it seriously or understand the gravity of the situation.
It is important to make them know that it is not a fun game to participate in, and when you are bored, you walk out. They must understand that their parents are aging and are dealing with deteriorating health that should be immediately taken care of.
How to resolve –
Suppose one or more siblings refuse to provide emotional support, financial help, or visit their parents due to past trauma, conflict, or other problems. In that case, the best thing to do is let them be.
It is completely their choice and right to put themselves first, yes, as much as it might hurt. They have their troubles and issues with them – you must understand that.
Many siblings are ready to provide financial support or take responsibility from a distance without being physically present with the parents – if this works with you, agree on it and play the role of the main caregiver so that everyone is okay with the arrangement, especially if you are the eldest sibling.
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Manipulative or toxic parents
Sometimes, siblings aren’t a problem at all. Sometimes, it’s the parents who have been knowingly or unknowingly toxic or manipulative to their children either early in life or continue being so for the rest of their lives.
If this is not the case, you should understand that at your parent’s age, they might be hit with symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, even other mental and emotional problems.
These illnesses often make them a bitter person or make them abuse you, even hit you – this can be heart-shattering, especially if you are a loved child of theirs. Do not take it to heart and continue doing what’s best for your mother or father, or elderly one when this happens.
How to resolve-
The first and foremost thing to remember is that this isn’t your fault. Suppose you cannot accept their condition like this. In that case, you should perhaps hire help or ask another family member to perform the caregiving task, even if it is for a few days. Take some respite from your responsibility and go out for a few days.
The best way to replenish yourself is to go for a vacation with your loved one or alone and return when you feel better. Allow yourself to have as much fun as you can before returning and taking up the responsibility when you bear and are ready.
The other sibling or family members can share your primary responsibility for the time being. You can understand that once you are back from your respite, you will take over their role as and when they want to take a break.
End-of-life formalities and inheritance conflicts
Unfortunately, inheritance and property issues amongst siblings are more common than you think. This is why your aging parents need to understand the importance of estate planning.
It can be quite uncomfortable to talk about creating wills and preparing financial plans for the parent’s family dealing with the end-of-life phase. It is, however, necessary to talk about the same, take in the opinion of everyone and finally have a will prepared before passing away.
How to resolve –
The first step towards solving this problem is to educate oneself and their parents about the importance of estate planning.
Perhaps, the main advantage of already having a will is to be relieved that there isn’t going to be a conflict or confusion amongst the siblings about who gets what after the parent passes away.
Once that sets in, the parent can hire an attorney to complete the business and relax away their time with their loved ones.
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Ways To Avoid Sibling Resentments at the Time of Caregiving
Not everyone looks at caregiving the same way. According to one sibling, the parent(s) might not need hospice care, while for the other, they do. Many disagreements like this one lead to future conflicts between them.
To avoid sibling resentments at the time of caregiving, you can consider applying the following solutions to your relationship.
Plan before an emergency
The best thing you can do to avoid any caregiving conflict in the future is to set the priority straight in the present. Most people avoid having this conversation out of fear and discomfort of something bad happening.
Even though it can get uncomfortable, you and your sibling, perhaps, in the cognitive presence of your parents, should talk it out about the necessary and agreed steps that should be taken in case a caregiving emergency crops up in the future.
Focus on the strength than weakness
When you look at the strength of every sibling/caregiver, instead of giving energy to negative thought processes and issues, you will be focused on creating and sharing positive energy. For example, one of the two siblings might be financially stable or even wealthy.
At the same time, the other may be emotionally intelligent and resilient. When the two come together and utilize each other’s strength, caregiving not only becomes easier but also brings great and quick results.
Keep taking the role of primary caregiver
Even if you live away from your parents, you can routinely take up the responsibility of the primary caregiver. In this way, all the siblings can feel wanted and important in their way.
For example, you can take chances on visiting them over weekends or accept the responsibility of taking them to doctor’s appointments and whenever they have to travel somewhere.
One of the siblings can take care of the medicines and tests of the parents while the other can be in charge of their exercise and meals. In this way, you will all feel a sense of importance and primary role in caring for the elderly.
Accept the idea of extreme care
Even after you split up certain responsibilities, at the end of the day, you will notice that one sibling is always doing more than the others. There is no particular reason behind such commitment.
Still, the possible cause can be that one person lives with or is close to the one in need, or maybe one sibling remains more attached to the parents or parent figure.
If you look at it from a positive perspective, it is a good thing since it balances out the responsibilities of all the siblings since one can be physically present there. At the same time, the other can take care of financial stuff.
Take a regular break from the responsibility
One thing about caregivers that no one talks about is burnout! Yes, caregiving is tough, and it challenges you on a physical, emotional, and mental level.
While it is important to pay attention to your parents and older relatives, as a caregiver, it is equally, if not more, important to take care of yourself and thus, go on breaks to recharge and rejuvenate your mind-body, and soul.
During this time, the other sibling can take care of the parents. The one on respite can charge when the other person wants to take a break from responsibility. This is exactly how it works to remove or at least reduce sibling resentment at the time of caregiving.
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What if One Sibling Doesn’t Want To Help?
There can be many reasons for a person not being available as a caregiver for an elderly member or a parent. A sibling refusing or unable to be a caregiver might have their reasons apart from a load of taking the responsibility.
Thus, we should consider the following engagements before jumping to the conclusion of their unwillingness to help or contribute to taking care of their parents.
They might be scared
Many people are afraid to face the condition of their parents – someone might have dementia and can’t recognize their son or daughter. While this is a natural outcome of the situation, it can be hard for some siblings to see their parents in such a condition. Thus, they are unable to remain present around their parents.
There are personal limitations
There are many other reasons that a sibling cannot contribute to the caregiving process of their parents. They might have certain limitations in terms of travel and finance; they might not be in the condition to afford the same for the time being.
As far as we are concerned, one must have a conversation regarding the same and take a decision keeping everyone’s limitations in mind.
They have other commitments
Usually, a parent gets sick late in their life, which means that their children are already loaded with many responsibilities. This directs that they might have other commitments to fulfill in life.
They might deem them to be more important than practicing caregiving to their parents. As much as you would want to judge them for this, you should understand their position in life and find a better way to work through it.
You might be expecting too much
It is possible that when we are acting as a caregiver to a parent or elder, we expect a lot from our siblings as well.
While there is nothing wrong with asking for a hand, your sibling doesn’t want to engage too much with the caregiving aspect of the parent because you might be expecting too much from them – one can only help if and when they are ready!
So, before you ask them about the same, ask yourself if you are unusually demanding about caregiving to your parents. Discuss the amount of time they can invest in caring for the parent and create a plan accordingly.
Hire outside help
When your sibling has laid out their limitations as a caregiver, we would recommend you not do this all alone and look for some help, whether at your home or outside. Admitting that you alone cannot take care of your sick parent is not a weakness; in fact, it is a strength.
There are professional caretakers available in various agencies in the US. However, it is important to learn about them and get the most authentic one – your parents are precious. Thus, it would help if you got a good helper for them to bathe, feed, change wound dressings, give medicines, etc., to your old family member.
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How To End Conflict and Come to an Agreement
There are many ways to end a conflict with people, not just your sibling. However, the best of the lot is to communicate your thoughts and make them understand your perspective. Even so, many debates end in an argument, and the disagreement persists.
So, it is important to have different methods at the back of your head to conclude smoothly, and some of the below pointers might help you with the same.
Hold family meetings regularly
By regular, we mean once in a week or two weeks and make sure that everyone agrees on meeting time. If you and your siblings live far away, then make sure to have video calls/conference calls with each other.
Discuss the plan, ask for everyone’s opinions, and listen to them as they speak. This will allow you to remain connected with your siblings while also keeping a check on the caregiving part of the parent.
If there remains any disagreement on any claim, the same can be solved by communication or carried forward to the next family meeting. Believe it or not, but a lot of sibling air is cleared when one takes the responsibility of holding family meetings regularly.
Hire or include a mediator in your disagreement
The first thing to decide here is whether you want to hire a professional for the job or someone within your friends or family would be able to do a job. Whatever you agree on, make sure that the person has an open and calm mind and can be completely unbiased towards the whole situation.
Having a soft spot or emotional connection to either of the siblings should not become a problem. Thus, all the members in the conflict should agree to have a mediator who doesn’t share such a connection with them or knows how to be unbiased in the situation.
Be honest and understanding
Most of the arguments and disagreements are usually the result of misunderstandings and their lack of ability to listen. Thus, it is important that as an older or younger sibling, you should keep your mind open and heart calm at the time of discussing something as serious and important as caregiving.
A silent approach towards caregiving can be a problem because people cannot understand your emotions until you communicate the same to them. Whether you are struggling financially, emotionally, physically, or mentally, speak up because there is no other way.
Let the emotions flow
It is so important to understand the value of emotions at this point. Most siblings have unsaid emotions toward each other and thus, can lead to resentment and problems in their relationship.
While it is very natural for every sibling to feel this way, it is also quite urgent to let the emotions flow when it comes to the surface. When the conflict about caregiving arises, there might be a chance that resentment from the past shows up, and when it does, do not stop yourself or them from speaking their mind.
Trust us; when it is all said and done, you will be thankful that it did because the healing would be immaculate.
Essential Tips To Put a Brake on Sibling Conflicts/Disagreements About Caregiving
It can be difficult to accept that your parents are aging and that you should be there for them at the time of their need. As siblings, the most important part is to take care of your old family members without driving each other crazy.
It might not seem possible in the beginning. Still, it very much is if you learn to work through your differences with each other, and here are some more essential tips to help you with the same.
Share the levels of responsibility
No one should feel more or less when taking care of one’s parents. Thus, you must agree on sharing individual stories of commitment and make it clear to each other before taking up the roles.
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Learn to address the problem
It is natural to have conflicts and disagreements arise between siblings. However, it completely depends on whether or not you want to address it in a meaningful way. Keep your mind and heart open when communicating or listening to the problems. However, none of this can happen if you fail to address it in the first place.
Empathy above all
The best way to keep the environment positive is to show compassion and understand that the only person that you can control is yourself. Thus, instead of showing rage, hatred or anger, it would be best to keep your mind calm and show empathy when your sibling or a loved one shows any conflict.
Go for frequent time-outs
Whenever a conflict engages too much of your energy, perhaps, it is for the best that you take a rest and go for a walk or listen to music – basically do anything that calms you down.
It will allow you to think better and clearer than before, and once you feel relaxed, you can go back and deal with the issue. If it deems fit to apologize, go ahead and do it by all means.
Do not expect your sibling to change miraculously
As much as we want, it is just not possible to change people. Well, we cannot even change ourselves, let alone change others. Thus, it is important to know that it is most likely that your sibling might be as selfish as they were in childhood and try to become a better person; the patterns may rise, especially now that you are around your parents.
Do not back away from speaking your mind
As difficult as it might be for you, it is important to allow the words to roll out of your tongue. When you tell your mind, people will have to listen whether they like it or not. So, go ahead and tell your sibling, parent, or any other family member sharing a caregiving role, what’s on your mind.
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It is simple to handle tough conflicts, conversations, and disagreements when caring for an aging parent or a senior loved one. However, it has never been easy, not for a single soul on this planet.
Thus, the best way to share the role of a caregiver for the senior member is to know exactly where you stand with your sibling or other family member and take it from there.
You can continue communicating, listening, understanding, and accepting with an open heart, and who knows, amidst taking care of your old family member, you and your sibling might give each other a chance to improve your relationship.
We hope this guide would have given you some useful tips, tricks, and ideas in resolving family conflicts when an older loved one needs care. If there was one key takeaway that we would like you to take from this is that you should always be respectful of your siblings or loved one’s feelings, and talking is always better than bottling up emotions.
Keep in mind that after all they are your family members and you would have probably spent many years with them. So try to keep the happiest parts of your relationships in your mind when you approach a discussion. Be positive, remain calm and sort out issues through discussion and debate.
We thank you for reading our guide and hope that you will share this with others who might be looking for similar guidance and perhaps a bit of advice.