Archive for the ‘Siblings’ Category
Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2013 12:37 Written by David Solie Sunday, 6 January 2013 06:28
A lead caregiver of aging parents was going to extraordinary lengths to keep everything together only to find herself drowning in transactional quicksand. As her parents drifted into the land of “more and more care,” her uninvolved siblings either refused to acknowledge the burden (it’s not that bad) or preferred to keep their distance from the fray (I’m not comfortable having them move in with me). Even when the lead caregiver’s own family faltered with a sick husband and dysfunctional teens, it drew essentially zero empathy from the siblings. As a last resort, the caregiver attempted to plead her case. It fell flat, and that’s when she asked me for advice. Here is what I said:
“It sounds like you have reached a tipping point in terms of what you can offer your aging parents. Despite heroic efforts, their needs exceed your capacity. It a simple fact of the complexity of aging. We do the best we can do until we are not enough. Hopefully we don’t self-destruct before we figure that out. But once we do, it becomes clear things need to change. This insight may not be shared by your parents who would like things to continue as they are or your siblings who would prefer a hands off position. Trying to convince them you are drowning under the weight of “keeping everything together” is pointless. This is your epiphany and your responsibility to act to protect your sanity and your family. The pleading phase is over. The informing phase has begun.
Inform your parents and your siblings you have gone as far you can go. Your home is no longer an option. Your parents need to find a living environment that is designed and staffed to address their health issues now and in the future. You are willing to help the family select a senior living location and with the transition. If your siblings feel this is excessive and your parents don’t need this level of care, they are free to offer their home as an alternative.
This is not to suggest that the informing will be easy or without pushback coming in ample doses of guilt and anger. Hold a firm reign, stay calm and rational and things will shift away from you carrying the entire load. Don’t expect anyone to thank you or be thrilled with the new configuration. But as your stress level recedes, you can take comfort in the fact your parents needed more and you had the courage to insist on it.”
Tags: aging parents, caregiver, caregiver stress, Caring for aging parents, communication conflicts with aging parents, conflict with siblings over aging parents, David Solie, eldercare, How To Say It To Seniors, sandwich generation, sibling conflict, sibling problems, the stress of caring for aging parents | Posted under Aging Parents, Siblings | No Comments
Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2013 02:05 Written by David Solie Sunday, 30 August 2009 10:14
The real work of families is recovery. In the volatile landscape of family systems, everything is exaggerated, both good and bad. One of the predictable “bad” events in the drama of aging parents is sibling infighting. It can be triggered by anything, but it is mostly about money, power, and affection. Once provoked, it extracts an emotional toll on the entire system that resists recovery. Here is a case in point.
A daughter and her husband step in to help organize and manage her widowed mother’s finances. The goal is financial sustainability. The plan appears to be working until her other siblings, the “local ones” who live close to her mother, intervene with their own advice and unspoken needs. Her mother is torn between competing children. In the end, she opts to relinquish control of her finances to the “local” siblings. Affection gives way to betrayal, and the siblings splinter.
As in Shakespeare, winners and losers never stay put. The local siblings’ victory proves short lived. Financial stability quickly unwinds and an urgent plea goes out to the rejected daughter for advice and, of course, money. “What are you going to do?” her husband asks. Indeed, now what?
Justice in families is tricky business. The rejected daughter was understandably angry and wanted justice. She refused her siblings’ request for more money, and for all practical purposes, went incommunicado with the rest of the family. Then she waited.
Nothing. No apology. No request for forgiveness. Her mother and the other siblings continued to smolder in their financial crisis, and then things got worse.
Her mother fell ill. The rejected daughter hesitated by finally flew home. It was worse than she thought. No one was capable of managing the situation. Money, hygiene, and morale were all about to run out. The rejected daughter was angry all over again that the an even bigger mess had been dumped in her lap. You?re the court of last resort her husband advises, the last lap available in the family. Step in or step out. Either way, I support your decision.
Being right is easy, but not a strategy for healing families. The rejected daughter opted to step in, not alone and not without conditions, but she did step in. A geriatric case manager was hired, money was managed through local trust company, and her mother was moved into an assisted living community. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t without confrontations, harsh words, and strict boundaries. But a fatal mess was reversed.
It turns out that recovery is not about happiness; it is about unmerited actions that families need, again and again to regain their balance and move on. In this case, it was about forgiveness, courage, self-sacrifice, and honoring an aging parent. And for this family, it came not a moment too soon…
Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2013 03:33 Written by David Solie Saturday, 12 January 2008 07:47
“But things in this life change very slowly, if they ever change at all”
The Eagles from Sad Cafe
In David Rico’s book “The Five Things We Cannot Changeone of the immutable laws of living on earth is that “life is unfair.”? Nowhere is this more obvious than in the interaction of siblings over the issue of their aging parents. We are tempted to believe that when adult children are asked to rally around an aging parent, the unresolved sibling issues of childhood would be set aside, and “the kids” would stand ready to partner for the common good. The truth is usually far different and more painful. What we see time and again is that the inconvenient occasion of aging parents simply reconvenes a family drama in which the players continue their previous roles and with an all too familiar outcome.
As much as we wish it were different, family roles for the most part are cut in stone. This is not a lament but simply a fact. Birth order, hair color, personality type, and timing all cast us in a role from our earliest years that follows like a shadow. If we start out as the outsider, the favorite, or the conscientious one, that’s were you will usually find us at sixty. How we feel about this is less important then its tactical significance. Knowing this fact about family systems allows us important choices when we find ourselves in an involuntary alliance with our siblings to address the predictable dilemmas of our aging parents dilemmas. How?
First, it allows us to stop trying to change our siblings who for the most part really resent us for having the audacity to think that we need to “fix” them. Most of us have been trying this from childhood with poor results.
Second, it allows us to accurately access to what our siblings will and will not do. While we may think guilt, shame, anger, and manipulation can help us to get them to carry their weight, this strategy never works in the long run. Even worse, it takes a heavy toll on us and them. Better to be blunt and admit that if their contribution is zero, then zero it is and move on.
Lastly, it allows us to invest our time and money in creating a non-family support system for our aging parents. One of the essential strategies for being successful with our aging parents is a concerted, relentless effort to piece together a support system. It is journey filled with false starts, dead ends, and false hopes. But it is also a journey of numbers. A steady, disciplined effort at building relationships yields good people, people that our aging parents need in their lives. This should be the logo on the T-shirt of every adult child working with an aging parent: steady effort.
If you are blessed with cooperative, helpful, and collaborative siblings count your blessings and let them know how much they mean to you. If your siblings abandon you to fend for yourself, then use the occasion to enhance your networking skills. Either way, you get the friendships, support, and resources you need to deliver a “steady effort.”
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