Here are six strategies for surviving caregiving with siblings:
- Play to each sibling’s strengths: We all have different strengths. I am great at execution; I can manage logistics like nobody’s business. I’m also great at research. I can find the answer to anything with Google. I’m not so good at the softer skills so I’m not the best sibling to put in charge of keeping the relatives and neighbors updated when a family member is sick. During a stressful time such as caregiving, try to focus on what each family member is best at and assign tasks accordingly.
- Don’t try to fix anyone. Likewise, we all have different weaknesses and caregiving is not the time to try to get a sibling to be different. If your younger brother has always been disorganized, he’s not going to become organized amid a caregiving crisis. Again, play to people’s strengths.
- Communicate often and broadly. Information will flow best if everyone in the family is hearing the same messages at the same time. Avoid confusion, misinformation, and misinterpretations by planning group conversations that include all siblings whenever possible. Schedule regular family meetings, set up group emails, or plan a Google hangout so everyone hears the same thing at the same time.
- Seek professional help. If you and your siblings have questions or conflicts, perhaps you should call in a professional. An eldercare attorney can help sort through estate planning in a way that honors your parents’ wishes and is most equitable for all. A senior housing specialist can help defuse some of the emotions that arise when caregiving with siblings and deciding whether or not to relocate your parents from a family home to assisted living. Financial planners can provide peace of mind that the family is saving and spending as prudently as possible. A few good dollars spent can save thousands in the long run – and spare hurt feelings too!
- Take charge. If you are ‘the one’ chances are you are, or will be, your parents’ power of attorney and healthcare proxy. If that is the case, own it. While you may choose to seek input from your siblings, you, and they, must respect your parent’s decision that you have been placed in charge. Your parents gave you the role because they trusted you. You need to trust yourself. If your siblings don’t like it, that is unfortunate but hopefully they too can respect your role. If they do not, know that you acted to the best of your ability and let that be enough.
- Leave Mommy and Daddy out of it. Perhaps when you were kids, you and your siblings ran to your parents to sort out petty squabbles and more significant misunderstandings. Those days are over. Do not burden the person who requires care with sibling disagreements. They have enough to worry about and do not need the guilt, worry, and stress that comes from knowing the family is at odds.