“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

How to Resolve Sibling Conflicts When Caring for an Aging Parent

As aging parents advance into needing caregiver assistance to help with health needs and activities of daily living, family members may struggle with whether to provide the care services themselves. It can be a difficult decision involving many factors, and one that can lead to conflict between adult siblings if they do not collectively decide on how to help a parent.

While one sibling may want to take on caregiving responsibilities for mom or dad, another may want to hire a professional to take over this responsibility. Unfortunately, communication can break down if family members are not careful. Siblings can be enormously helpful to one another, but they can also be a source of stress to both each other and to their parents.

Conflict, however, does not need to be a reason for adult family members to choose not to care for an aging parent. With some clear communication and practical knowledge, resolving conflict for the betterment of the elder parent is doable. Let us share some of the insight we provide our clients.

First, the lion’s share of caregiving tasks usually falls on a particular adult child. It’s important for other siblings to recognize all that this entails, including the emotional costs. Forgoing income-generating opportunities, and basing social and personal decisions around the well-being of the aging parent can be an enormous sacrifice. When combining the rigors of meal preparation, assistance with activities such as bathing and dressing, and transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, caregiving can be downright exhausting.

Conversely, a primary caregiver should recognize any resentments towards his or her siblings stemming from his or her choice to volunteer to provide care. Practical steps to resolve conflict issues can be taken once a basic understanding of roles, and a healthy respect for them, is solidified within the new family dynamic.

Another way to resolve conflict and family power struggles while setting up an aging parent to succeed is to get help from professionals outside of the family. Even the most “functional” families bring old baggage to the table when thinking through crucial health care decisions. It is important to address them head on and find resolution so these issues do not remain when the family needs to work together on legal matters such as the durable powers of attorney and estate planning, or managing financial resources.

Consulting an elder law attorney as siblings step in to care for mom and dad can have the double benefit of providing expert information for the family, while serving as an objective third-party focused on important matters that might otherwise get lost in an emotionally driven atmosphere of disputing siblings. We know that providing care for an elder parent can be a challenging experience for adult siblings. We want you to know that with a healthy approach, it can bring family together and lead to positive outcomes for your aging parent. Do not wait to contact us to ask us your questions today.

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