Old resentments and rivalries often die hard, especially with sibling relationships, and caregiving situations can resurrect these issues.
This is especially true if one adult child is doing the lion's share of the caregiving work, with little support from siblings, or if one person is footing the bill for paid caregiving or medical expenses. In other instances, power struggles can occur between older and younger siblings who think they know what's best for Mom or Dad and want to have control of caregiving decisions.
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Complicating matters, “parents often have preferences for which child will be the primary caregiver, which may stir up resentments with siblings,” says Barry J. Jacobs, a clinical psychologist, health care consultant and AARP caregiving expert.
"How you behave with one another can affect your sibling relationships for the rest of your lives,” he observes. “When you pull together and work together, it can strengthen the relationship. When you don't, it can weaken the relationship.”
Here are smart strategies that can help you navigate potential minefields with your siblings:
1. Come up with a consensus
Schedule a meeting with your siblings, either in person or on a conference call, to “discuss your parent's condition, what the caregiving needs are and what's likely to happen going forward,” Jacobs says.
Once you are in general agreement, devise a caregiving plan that addresses who will play each role. Someone will do the bulk of the work; others will be supporting players or provide respite care.
At least every quarter, reevaluate what's happening with your loved one and how her needs are changing. Refine the plan as necessary.