When Siblings Disagree On Care For Parents

when siblings disagree on care for parents

One of the biggest challenges families face is when members can’t agree on care for an aging loved one. Sometimes, this occurs when a loved one’s wishes for their own life directly oppose our own – but it becomes far more complex when siblings disagree about care for their parents.

Priority #1: Avoid Contention That Agitates Your Parent

We cannot overstate how critical it is to avoid contention that agitates your parent. When a parent knows their children are squabbling or in full-blown family feuds over their care, it diminishes their quality of life. Seniors can begin to retreat, feel intimated to voice their own opinions, and may experience heightened anxiety and depression. This is the last thing you want to do to someone you love, especially in the last chapters of their life.

When siblings cannot agree on a parent’s care plan, it’s time to STOP and regroup. Fighting solves nothing, and we can confidently attest that it makes everything worse.

What To Do When Siblings Disagree On Care For Parents

Here are three things you can do to redirect the conversation, ensuring everything you do is in your parent’s best interest, immediate well-being, and future quality of life.

Have a family conversation with your parent 

If your parent can make decisions, their word should be honored regardless of whether it conflicts with their children’s opinions. In cases where their wishes aren’t affordable or are impossible, that can be addressed. Otherwise, it’s always best to honor an individual’s wishes for their life – and death. That is all you can ask for yourself, right?

Every sibling should be present so there is no ability to manipulate or coerce (or for someone to say you did). Keep a list of the areas where you disagree and then frame simple, black/white questions (no leading the witness…)

What about dementia or an unresponsive parent? 

First, people in the early stages of dementia can almost always make decisions about their care. So, don’t rule out their opinion in those first several months. In fact, that’s the exact time to enlist their support in creating a long-term care plan if they haven’t already – and documenting it for future reference. 

If the person is unresponsive, remember they can likely hear you and are more attentive to the room’s energy than you’d think. So keep negative talk or arguments out of their space and make clear, mature, and big-picture commitments to resolving the issues ASAP using neutral parties.

Refer to any potential long-term care plans, correspondence, or a will

Did your parent(s) create any type of long-term care plans? Or might they have documentation or paperwork referencing certain aspects of their wishes or hopes for aging or end-of-life scenarios?

There are a range of places your parent may have made their wishes known if you think about this from a big-picture perspective:

  • Estate plans (wills, trusts, etc.). Did they work with an estate attorney at any point? Review any paperwork of that type and look for specific instructions or clues about what your parent did or did not want.
  • Advanced medical directives. Did they ever create an advanced medical directive? If so, it may hold valuable information on the topics you’re holding in disagreement. Contact all healthcare providers and see if there is one on file. What about your parent’s close friends or neighbors? A parent may have provided copies to others – or shared wishes about end-of-life care/preferences. 
  • Emails or letters from the past. Is there a chance your parent expressed any wishes at all (I never want to live in assisted living? I don’t want to die in a hospital? I’d never want to be on life support? Do whatever it takes to keep me alive?) You may find that going through old emails or past letters offers some insights.
  • Financial plans/planners. Did your parent have a long-term relationship with a particular financial advisor or CPA over the years? You may find that individual knows details about your parent’s wishes that were never shared with you. 

Again, regardless of sibling disagreements, the goal should always be to honor your parent’s wishes to the best of your ability.

When siblings disagree schedule meetings, assessments, or consultations with neutral parties

If you can’t get a clear read on what your parent’s wishes were, and siblings can’t agree, it’s time to bring in neutral parties. First, start with your parent’s friends if any are still alive and willing to talk. Seniors often talk with their friends about their wishes, plans, and intentions even if they never formalize them. Their friends may have a very clear insight into some of the siblings’ hot topics.

After that, we recommend:

Scheduling in-home assessments with senior caregiving agencies

Local, licensed caregiving agencies provide free, in-home assessments with absolutely no obligation. During these meetings, you’ll get informed, professional insight into what would be best for your parent based on what we see. We recommend scheduling consultations with at least three different agencies.

You’ll glean invaluable information about what your parent needs and recommendations about care plans, progressive care requirements, and more. Even if you don’t decide to pursue in-home care for your aging parent, the information you receive will help unify your decisions.

If your parent has a terminal illness or is already bedbound or nonresponsive, schedule a consultation with local hospice care agencies. They provide a wealth of support – from physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual and grief counselors, and volunteers.

Visit assisted living communities

If one of the biggest arguments is about whether or not to keep a parent at home or transfer them to an assisted living facility, touring different communities is the next logical step. If you all live out of town, this may be the best move – even if you are in doubt – because your parent has access to professional care 24/7. 

In this scenario, you can have the best of both worlds by hiring a caregiver to visit them regularly. That way, they get the best of what assisted living or memory care centers offer while still having regular personal company (and safety checks) from someone they trust.

HomeAide Home Care Helps Families Make the Best Care Choices for Parents

Is your family struggling to agree on what’s best for your mom or dad? HomeAide Home Care is honored to provide a free assessment and share our thoughts with you. We are a nurse-owned home care agency with decades of experience providing high-quality care to seniors and their families.

Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We’re happy to hear where your disagreements lie, assess your parent’s current situation, and make professional recommendations for your parent’s immediate and future well-being. 

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