Every family is eventually faced with elderly parents facing their final days. The emotional distress watching your beloved parent’s health change is beyond description. Roles within the family change as siblings are entrusted with health care and housing plus financial issues. Power/s of attorney roles are given according to physical closeness, age order and maybe gender.
Every adult child of the parent is then involved in what often is the most difficult sibling relationship experienced.
The life experiences and personalities of the siblings are put to the test. Can we as adults, and often very senior adults who have health issues themselves, actually see eye to eye with our siblings on the emotionally charged issues that this traumatic time brings?
How do we bring all the siblings to agreements on Mum or Dads care?
With great difficulty.
The relationship history between siblings can be stretched to breaking points due to differing adult experiences and personalities that have evolved over the years. Family traits, jealousies and pet hates can spring back to life as old rivalries or opinions resurface,
Of course, this should not be happening as the siblings should by now have learnt acceptance of their difference and put these old attitudes aside.
But, the emotionally charged feelings can drive siblings apart as they independently strive to care for perceived needs of the beloved, ill and failing parent.
Issues regarding which care facility is best suited, knowing the parent who at this point has a sound enough mind to be part of the decision, need to be made. But was he/ she really capable?
Assisted living, care home, dementia care? Live with a family member? Should a family member move states and live closer to the sick parent? Is it the responsibility of the daughter to do this? Is it her role? What of her spouses wishes? Financial implications etc etc, and the list goes on.
Communication between siblings continue to be a problem as sibling opinions are causing anger, verbal attacks and threats towards the sibling who has different opinions regarding the care needs.
How does the out cast sibling persuade the other siblings that the frail parent is needing better care?
Toileting is not as it should be. Medications are not being taken because the frail parent is suffering forgetfulness and in early dementia. Health assessments done to diagnose this lead to nothing as the frail parent is still able to behave in a manner that shows he or she is still capable to remain at home.
The siblings repeat the assessments a number of times, and fail to convince the health carers of the problems being experienced at home need addressing. The daughter through being female and knowing the parent from her mother/ father daughter perspective is disbelieved by male siblings. Told to stop meddling. Dad/Mum is fine where he/she is at the moment.
Meanwhile, on subsequent visits the daughter sees again the lack of proper health care, finding the pills which haven’t been taken, and sees Mum or Dad are not eating. She experiences the parent becoming bedridden despite the parent telling everyone he/she is socialising and coping.
The next stage approaches.
Assisted living or care home? Perhaps dementia care?
Again friction between siblings rises. Mum/Dad refuse care home and definitely not dementia care. Some siblings agree. So the move to assisted living is made.
Downsizing is the next challenge as the siblings don’t agree with each other, Mum/Dad tell the principle mover (sibling) to ask him/her about what to keep,what to give away or sell. And tells the principle mover to make her own decision as the parent trusts her.
The move is accomplished, downsizing completed, items not needed given to charity and family.But, the other siblings fear the principle mover has taken things without permission, and the accusations follow.
The power of attorney/s take over— one for health care, the other for finances when it becomes apparent the frail parent really should have gone into a higher need care facility. Communication has ceased between siblings and the outcast sister is left not knowing of the move three weeks later.
More issues. More hurt siblings as they each do their best for the ailing parent. And the daughter finally hears of the move to the care home. The lack of communication cuts deeply.
Each has the much loved parents needs in their minds, but because of no communication from the power of attorney’s, unnecessary situations keep cropping up.
The outcast daughter is accused of meddling. And when visiting the ailing parent after the parent has settled in, she is disempowered to find solutions when discovering missing jewellery, and a lot of clothing.
The parent becomes confused as not knowing where these items are. Memory is the problem. But, communication between siblings is the culprit.
None of this should be happening.
The siblings are all at fault due to their lack of ability to work together without feeling they are being undermined or their efforts are disrespected. None of that is true, in reality. Each sibling has one focus— care of the beloved parent.
How these situations will end in families only time will tell.
Hopefully, with the passing of time, the siblings will forgive and move on, becoming a close family again. But, maybe the rifts have shown the great differences between their individual philosophies and they decide to remain distant.
This will be the worst decision, but, we all know as individuals it is important to care for our own mental health and be mindful of the situations which upset the balance.
If you are facing similar situations, obtain medical and spiritual council. Once the parent passes you have a life ahead which needs to be lived in a manner that is not filled with anxiety and regret.
I wish you well.
As for myself, with loving support from cousins and friends, close contact with my sons, wisdom from my loving husband, and my faith, I am doing okay. I leave my ailing parent after this visit with my parent safe and settled, to return home and let what follows take it’s course.
Author— Glennis Annie Browne