When Elder-Care Duties Lead to Sibling Rivalry




An elderly parent’s health problems can torpedo relationships among brothers and sisters. One of the most common causes of sibling elder-care conflicts is that one sibling winds up taking almost all the responsibility.

Another flash point: Who controls Mom’s or Dad’s money? If one sibling is managing a parent’s finances without oversight, charges of financial abuse can crop up easily. End-of-life care is another point of contention. How much should doctors intervene to keep a parent alive after he or she is on a feeding tube? Or a respirator?

To ward off sibling conflicts, Paula Spencer, senior editor of caring.com, advises having a family meeting to talk about what needs to get done. Education helps too; if you are well-informed on a parent’s illness or caregiving issues, send information to your sibs “so not just one person knows everything,” she says. A “divide-and-conquer” approach can help: Delegate to different siblings various aspects of caregiving such as insurance, respite care, doctor communications, financial affairs, or home maintenance.

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