Today we’re focusing on issues that may arise among siblings once parents begin to decline. If your interactions feel like when you were kids fighting for who gets the biggest piece of cake, here are some tips that may help your family right now:
Recognize why you’re upset. There’s likely a lot going on as you try to keep all the balls in the air. Worrying about your parents’ well-being and the decisions you will have to make on their behalf is stressful. At the same time you may be facing loss on many levels – your parents as you knew them, fears about their declining health and eventual death.
Divide the responsibilities. Love for your parents and shared memories are what you have in common with your siblings. Now is the time to support each other. If you live far away but have the financial wherewithal to send money from time to time, don’t hesitate – and call often. If you live local, are hands-on and don’t think the others are doing enough, try to understand the guilt they may be feeling.
Talk about your emotions. Whether its frustration, sadness or grief, have a conversation with your siblings or with friends who understand what you’re going through. It can be cathartic to put it all on the table and easier to sort out. And those who have been in your situation may guide you to a different perspective and possible solutions.
Focus on individual qualities. We all have unique skills and strengths. Which of your siblings has some free time and manages money well or lives close to your folks and is persuasive enough to gain their cooperation? Try to recognize these and put the best use of everyone’s talents to work.
Be proactive. Arrange a family meeting and try to resolve any longstanding disputes. Include your parents in conversations and discuss their preferences about how they want to live as they decline. As difficult as this may be, it will minimize confusion and conflict in the long run.
Put what you’re learning into play. You don’t have to wait until you’re incapacitated to consider some of these issues, write a will or create a legacy. Be a good role model for the benefit of your children. Remember, they’re watching.