The 50/50 Rule Part Four04-27-11-senior-corner.jpg

Family caregiving doesn’t typically run smoothly when brothers and sisters caring for seniors can’t agree. In the US, three key factors will influence whether relationships between the adult children will deteriorate and if quality of care will be compromised as a result, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network. Those factors are the adult children’s ability to make im-portant decisions together; their ability to divide the caregiving workload; and their level of teamwork.

“My impression is that parents end up getting help when their children dis-agree, but I think the more common problem is that it’s hard on senior parents to know their children are in conflict,” said Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., sibling rela-tionships expert from the University of Western Ontario. “I think for most it’s bad enough they already need the help of their children, but if their situation is causing conflict it’s especially tough,” said Connidis, who worked with the Home Instead Senior care network on the 50-50 Rule public education program for sibling caregiv-ers (www.solvingfamilyconflicts.com).

According to the website Caring.com, family feuds often involve the following areas

:• Roles and rivalries dating to childhood. Mature adults often find that they’re back in the sandbox when their family gets together. This tendency can grow more pronounced under the strain of caregiving.

• Disagreements over an older adult’s condition and capabilities. It’s common for family members to have very different ideas about what’s wrong with a loved one and what should be done about it. You may be convinced that your family member is no longer capable of driving, while your brothers argue that he needs to maintain his independence.

• Disagreements over financial matters, estate planning, family inheritance and other practical issues. How to pay for a family member’s care is often a huge cause of tension. Financial concerns can influence decisions about where the per-son should live, whether or not a particular medical intervention is needed, and whether he can afford a housekeeper. These conflicts are often fueled by ongoing resentment over income disparities and perceived inequities in the distribution of the family estate.

• Burden of care. Experts say the most common source of discord among fam-ily members occurs when the burden of caring for a senior isn’t distributed equally. “Usually one of the adult children in the family takes on most of the caregiv-ing tasks,” says Donna Schempp, program director at the Family Caregivers Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that provides information and sup-port to caregivers.

Engaging parents in caregiving issues is important, Dr. Connidis said, and so are family meetings that involve a third party if necessary. A third-party resource, particularly a professional such as a doctor or geriatric care manager, can provide an impartial voice of reason. “Talking before a crisis is best,” she said. “Talk to one another about perceptions of what happens if seniors need help, how available you would be, and the options that you and your family would consider.”Resources:

• The 50-50 Rule; www.solvingfamilyconflict.com

• The 40-70 Rule; www.4070talk.com

• Caring.com; www.caring.com

• Home Instead Senior Care; www.homeinstead.com

Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions; www.stagesofseniorcare.com

This is the last of 4 articles which addresses sibling is-sues in caring for their aging parents. If you would like a copy of “The 50-50 Rule” booklet, stop by the local Home Instead Senior Care office at 2825 Arlington Avenue, Fayetteville, N.C. 28303 or call us at 484-7200.

Photo: In the US, three key factors will influence whether relationships between the adult chil-dren will deteriorate and if quality of care will be compromised as a result.

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