Top mistakes siblings make after holidays with aging parents
Early January is typically the time of year adult children face the reality that their aging parents need help. But often, siblings argue about what to do and when.
"Right after the holidays we often see major conflict among family members who just got back from a visit with Mom and Dad and argue about their condition and how and when to help. Their house was a mess, their mail piled up, bills weren't paid, and they aren't as well-groomed as usual -- all signs it's time to step in," says Frank Samson, CEO of Senior Care Authority, a national eldercare consulting company. "Siblings may fight and draw battle lines and that's when we can help 'referee' and mediate by helping the family find assisted living or other solutions."
Senior Care Authority says these are the top five mistakes to avoid after the holidays concerning aging parents:
1) Assuming a sibling will handle all the problems. Typically, one sibling, often the oldest daughter, assumes the role of the parents' primary decision-maker and caregiver and the other siblings are happy to be off the hook.
Even if you live far away from your aging parents, you can help. You can perhaps handle some of their finances online, or call every day to check in on needy parents, giving relief to the primary caregiver.
Don't be hands-off and assume your sibling will carry the load alone.
2) Why should I ask? If you're the sibling who's the primary caregiver, you may have to ask for help.
Don't assume your siblings can read your mind and will know how stressed out you are. Don't think siblings are rotten people because they're not offering to chip in.
Speak up and ask for help and often family members will step up.
3) Support the supporter. It's important to let the primary caregiver sibling know you appreciate everything he or she does for Mom and Dad and you're all in this together.
Perhaps treat your siblings to dinner or a special outing as a break from caregiving duties.
Call often to check in and visit as much as possible so they know you're all a united team.
4) Make big decisions without discussions. Don't assume that because you take the lead in your parents' care, you can make decisions without feedback from your siblings.
It's smart to have weekly "conference" calls so all siblings can weigh in. If conversations get heated, take a break and continue the discussion next week, once everyone calms down.
Often, if aging parents have dementia and can't speak for themselves, adult children vote on big decisions and bring in an eldercare consultant who helps guide them if needed.
5) Don't revert to childhood roles. Perhaps one sibling always seemed closer to your parents and you felt like he/she was the "favorite," Don't let those roles define who you all are now.
You are all adults, so give siblings who once may have been disengaged a chance to step up and you might be surprised.
"It's always best when siblings put aside childhood roles and disagreements and work together for the best living solutions for their parents," says Samson. "If siblings fight, or even when they get along, we can help navigate the aging process so it's not so overwhelming and confusing."
If you're not sure if your parent needs help, Senior Care Authority offer these top five signs that your loved one needs help:
1. Physical changes: Losing weight (not eating right), gaining weight (possible diabetes).
2. Sleep cycles: Too much sleep (possible depression), insomnia (possible reaction to meds).
3. Medications: Expired/unused prescriptions. Write a list of meds and post on the fridge and keep a copy in your parents' wallets so caregivers and even first responders know the drugs they're taking.
4. Normal routines: Are parents still active in senior groups, religious organizations, hobbies? If not, why not?
5. Basic upkeep: Are they keeping up with housekeeping, bill paying, lawn care, home repairs? If not, it's time to step in and help. It's also a good idea to appoint one sibling as Power of Attorney (POA) to handle finances so bills are sent to one place and paid on time.
• Senior Care Authority is a Senior Placement and ElderCare Consulting organization serving nearly 60 communities in 13 states. For more information, visit www.seniorcareauthority.com.