How to Handle Sibling Disagreement Over Elderly Parent Care

Caring for elderly parents can bring up a lot of confusing feelings for adult children.

On our best days, we find joy in taking care of the parents that took care of us for so many years. Then, there are days, more than we’d like, when caring for our parents is stressful and frustrating. To add to the complicated feelings, siblings often clash about how to best care for their parents.

Siblings can argue about a range of issues regarding the care of their parents. Arguments run the gamut of safety issues, how to address medical needs, finances, and who is responsible for different aspects of caregiving.

How do you get everyone on the same page and preserve family relationships?

Here are some suggestions that can help adult children navigate the tricky waters of caretaking for elderly parents.

Improve Communication

Conflict in human relationships is inevitable. We want different things at different times. That’s okay. In fact, it’s completely normal. How skillfully we communicate our different needs and wants determines the quality of our relationships. Here are a few tips to improve communication when it comes to how to care for your aging parents.

  • Use “I” Statements One of the best ways to diffuse conflict is to use “I” statements.

Instead of saying, “You leave me with all the responsibility, and it’s not fair,” try saying it a different way. “I feel overwhelmed with so many responsibilities. Can you help with (fill in the blank)?”

When you use “I” statements, the other person will feel less defensive and will be more able to hear what you have to say.

  • Recognize intent vs. impact When we say or do something that another person finds hurtful, we’re sometimes surprised. We didn’t intend to be hurtful, so we think we’re off the hook if they feel hurt. While we can’t control how others receive what we say, we can control how we respond to their reaction.

We could argue our point—and go around and around without getting anywhere. Or, we could simply acknowledge the impact of our actions and say those two magic words, “I’m sorry.” Apologizing goes a long way towards improving communication and relationships.

  • Be curious For more relationship magic, remind yourself to be curious the next time a conflict arises. Here’s an example of how that might work:

Your sibling, who does the majority of the caretaking, clears some stuff from your parent’s home and donates it all to charity. You wanted some of the things that were cleared out. You accuse your sibling of not caring about your feelings and being a control freak.

If you remember to be curious in this situation, you’d might start the conversation by saying, “I was surprised that you got rid of so much of mom’s stuff. What prompted you to make that call?” When you start with curiosity, you’ll get a better understanding of the situation. Maybe you’ll find out that some things were tripping hazards for your mother. Maybe your sibling was stressed and didn’t have time to consult you. Once you hear your sibling out, you can say how you feel. Then you can have a discussion about what to do going forward.

When One Sibling Does More

Caregiving responsibilities are almost never split evenly among adult children. In fact, there is usually one sibling that does most of the heavy lifting. Many reasons factor into this, from geography and work schedules to the quality of the parent-child relationship.

When one child does the lion’s share, ALL of the adult children can end up with negative feelings. The caretaking child might feel resentful, overburdened, and angry that they are shouldering so much of the care. Adult children who don’t do as much caretaking sometimes feel shut out of the decision-making, not to mention guilty for not doing more.

If you are the main caretaker, chances are good your siblings don’t fully understand how many different things you do for your parent. If you’re feeling resentful, ask for help. Lay out for your siblings all the different areas where your parent needs care. Which areas do you want help in? Some examples are:

  • managing medication
  • go to medical appointments
  • arranging in-home services
  • grocery shopping
  • managing finances
  • household chores like laundry and cleaning
  • researching next steps in care—more services, assisted living, nursing care
  • researching eligibility for benefits—medical insurance, veteran benefits, state programs, etc.

Sometimes people want to help, but they don’t know what needs to be done. Be specific and try to group tasks by categories. If your sibling can take full control of one or two areas, that frees up your mental energy to focus on the other areas.

Conversely, if you are not the main caregiver, but you want to be more involved, make your availability known. Do a little research so you’re informed about elder care. Instead of saying, “Let me know if I can do anything,” offer to take over specific tasks.

Disagreeing About the Level of Care a Parent Needs

Siblings often disagree about how much care their aged parents need. One sibling may want their parent to maintain their sense of independence, while others believe their parents need some help. It can be hard to tell who’s right. And let’s face it, it’s hard to be objective when it comes to our own parents.

Thankfully, you don’t have to fight this battle alone. If your parent will allow you to, make an appointment with their primary care physician. (Because of HIPPA privacy laws, your parent’s physician can speak to you about their care only if your parent gives written permission.)

Your parent’s doctor can help assess what level of care is needed. They’ll ask questions regarding your parent’s level of functioning in several different areas such as:

  • dressing
  • remembering to take medicine
  • eating regularly and able to fix meals
  • bathroom safety
  • issues with incontinence

Your parent’s physician may also recommend an in-home screening by a nurse or care provider. These professionals will look at how your parent moves around their home and manages household tasks. They may recommend services such as housekeeping and laundry, grocery shopping, physical or occupational therapy, food preparation, or personal care such as bathing and dressing.

Having an outside opinion can take the onus of decision-making off of adult children and help end sibling disagreements about care.

End of Life and Palliative Care

One of the hardest conversations for families to have centers around end of life issues. Understandably, most people do not like to think about their own death or that of their loved ones.

Having this difficult conversation earlier than later, though, makes it far less emotionally charged. Encourage your loved ones to prepare their advance directive if they haven’t already. According to AARP,

Every adult should have an advance directive in which you explain the type of health care you do or do not want when you can’t make your own decisions. You should also appoint someone who can speak for you to make sure your wishes are carried out.”

Advance directives vary by state and are binding legal documents. Most include:

  • a “living will” which outlines your medical wishes under different circumstances and
  • the appointment of a health care proxy, who will carry out your wishes if you are unable to do so yourself

Hashing this out ahead of time can reduce family friction later on. The last thing children want to be doing when their parents are gravely ill is fighting with their siblings.

Finding your way through the maze of elder care is challenging for any family. No one gets through it all without emotions flaring. If you’re lucky, and you can remember that you all have your parent’s best interests at heart, you and your siblings can support each other throughout the journey.

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Aging in Place and Why You Need to Think About it Now

Once you reach a certain age, the subject of senior housing options is going to come up. You start to see your peers making changes—moving to a senior living community or downsizing and moving to a warmer climate. Family members start asking about your plans.

Everyone seems to want you to do something. Often that something means moving out of your home into some place new.

What if you don’t want to go anywhere, though? What if you love your home and you want to stay right where you are? You’re not alone. Many seniors want to stay in their own home, the place that holds memories, brings comfort, and feels like, well..….home.

What is Aging in Place?

Aging in place is the process of determining what types of housing and care considerations you need and want as you age.

An aging in place plan should support your quality of life goals. It requires thinking through different scenarios and potential outcomes. The sooner you start to plan, the more prepared you’ll be to meet the challenges that come with aging.

Making an Aging in Place Plan

The most important part of an aging in place plan is having a plan. That doesn’t mean you have to write it all down (though you could). That means thinking about things such as:

  • Where do you want to live?
  • Who do you want to live near?
  • What kinds of activities do you want to continue (or begin) in your retirement years?
  • How is your current health? Do you need special medical help or equipment?
  • What kinds of help might you need with your daily living tasks? (These tasks are often referred to as activities of daily living or ADL.)
  • How is your current mobility? What supports might you need if your mobility decreases?
  • Do you need to create changes in your home that will make it safer for you?

It’s helpful to have this conversation with family or loved ones. Talking it out can help you clarify things for yourself. Family and friends can weigh in with their concerns. They can also let you know if they will be able to provide you with any kind of support.

Think About Support in Categories

You can have some control of what you want aging in place to look like, especially if you plan ahead. Use the following categories to help you start planning.

Household chores Things like lugging laundry, scrubbing the bathroom, or general cleaning can become more difficult as we age. Shopping for groceries and cooking can as well. This is often the simplest and least expensive type of assistance to find.

Homeowner chores If you own your own home, you know there is always something that needs to be done. Seasonal chores, spring cleaning, and repair work are challenges even when we’re young and healthy. Think about who can help with these bigger tasks.

Personal Care Personal care assistance includes things like showering, shaving, and dressing. Don’t postpone getting help with personal care if you are at risk for falling, especially with regard to showering. You’re more likely to fall in the bathroom than anywhere else in your house.

Transportation Being able to drive or take public transportation when and where you want is a given when you’re young and healthy. Add age and physical or cognitive health issues, and it’s a whole new ballgame. You don’t have to be stuck in your house, though. There are many services that are offered to get seniors to and from where they want to go.

Accepting Help from Friends and Strangers

Once you’re ready to accept help with personal or home needs, there are two avenues for getting support. You can get help from

  • people you know—-family, friends, or neighbors.
  • people you don’t know—-either private individuals or agency professionals.

Some people are adamant that they don’t want strangers in their home. Others don’t want to bother their friends and family and would prefer to work with professional home care workers. Only you know your comfort level with these choices.

Where to Find Caregiving Help

There are tons of agencies that deal with senior services. It’s a good idea to start making a list of resources you can call upon when the time comes.

Your local senior center

 As many seniors and caregivers will tell you, local senior centers are an incredible resource. Whatever stage you’re at in needing care or planning for care, they can point you towards the right resources. They know the agencies and can give you information on avenues for financial help.

In addition to social activities (both onsite and virtual), senior centers often have a medical escort program where volunteers drive you directly to medical appointments. Senior centers usually have a dedicated van that makes regular trips to grocery stores, downtown shopping areas, and medical buildings. Often there is no fee for medical escort drivers or the van.

Veterans’ organizations

If you’ve served in the military, your local veterans’ administration can also be a resource for getting assistance. You may be able to receive financial assistance and medical care, depending on your eligibility.

In-home care services

Your senior center or doctor can give you a list of recommended agencies. Look for one with a sliding fee scale. In-home care agencies can help with household chores, shopping, and cooking. They factor in time for companionship, which is often what seniors appreciate the most.

These agencies offer personal care assistance as well, such as showering, shaving and dressing.

In-home medical assistance

If you go to the hospital for any reason, your doctors may prescribe in-home nursing care to follow-up and make sure you’re healing okay. Insurance will usually cover the cost, but only for a prescribed period of time. If you need ongoing in-home medical assistance, you may have to dig deeper to find agencies that offer these services.

Pro tip: Start a file to keep track of phone numbers, brochures, and any other resources you gather concerning your aging in place plans.

Monetary Considerations

When it comes to choosing your care options, money is always a consideration. Getting in-home services can certainly come with a price tag. Even if you have several types of in-home assistance, though, the cost will likely be far less—potentially thousands of dollars less—than moving to an assisted living facility.

Money is another reason to start this process early. The more research you do, the more likely you are to find avenues for financial supports.

Look Around to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Have a friend or hire a professional to take a good look around your home for common falling risks. Innocent things like area rugs that slide or flip over can cause a fall. A tub without non-slip treads is a big no-no.

It may seem silly, but having too much stuff in your home can spell trouble. Piles of paper or magazines can tumble over exactly where you’re stepping and land you in the hospital. Too much furniture can impede you walking safely from one room to another.

Making Accommodations to Your Current Home

A qualified contractor can make provide a home safety assessment for a few hundred dollars. That’s money well-spent if it helps you avoid injury. Several physical changes can be made to your home that can make it safer and more comfortable as your physical needs change.

You can:

  • have doorways and hallways widened
  • add ramps to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs
  • have bathroom grab bars installed
  • make a cut out in your bathtub so it’s easier to get in and out
  • switch out lower kitchen cabinets for easy-slide drawers

Aging in place is worth pursuing for physical, emotional and financial reasons. Start making plans early, so you’re ready for whatever comes your way.

Need to clear the clutter so you can stay safe in your home? Contact us to see how we can help!


Simple Living Trends for Seniors

Henry David Thoreau famously took to the woods alone to live a simpler life. More than a century later, many people are looking for ways to live our lives more simply, to focus on what’s meaningful for us and whittle away what’s not.

Many seniors find they’re at the point in their lives where simplifying their living arrangements makes sense. Unlike Thoreau, though, today’s seniors, and their grown children, are looking to trade a little independence for strengthened family bonds.

The thought of lower housing costs, fewer possessions to care for, and more time with family, has a lot of seniors looking into these housing options.

Don’t Call it a Granny Pod

You’ve decided that you want to live close to family. Your son or daughter, or niece or nephew, is ready to roll out the red carpet for you. Truth be told, they don’t have a big enough house for everyone to be comfortable—including you. You’re worried that you’ll be too much in each other’s space.

Meet the granny pod. (We know, it’s a terrible name.) Otherwise known as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), it may be the perfect choice for you and your family.

The granny pod is essentially a detached in-law apartment. While in-law apartments are generally part of the main house, an ADU is a separate structure. In general, granny pods have these features in common. They:

  • provide between 400-800 square feet of living space
  • include a bedroom, living area, bathroom and kitchenette
  • costs range from $40,000 to $125,000 (Medically equipped structures will cost more.)
  • hook up to main home’s utilities and water supplies
  • include universal design features, such as wheelchair accessible bathrooms

There are a lot of advantages to ADUs. Being close to family can prevent loneliness, and pooling resources for expenses–groceries, household upkeep, real estate taxes–can benefit everyone.

The other main advantage is that living close to family can mitigate the need for assisted living or nursing home care.

If you’re seriously considering an ADU, there are several different options to explore.

  • Converting an already existing structure on the property, such as a shed.
  • Having a structure built by contractors.
  • Ordering a pre-fabricated kit for contractors or someone in the family to build.
  • Investing in a medical ADU that’s designed to meet seniors’ more serious medical needs.

You may encounter a few obstacles that will weigh into your decision. The biggie is zoning restrictions. Many housing lots aren’t zoned for ADUs. Often, local housing associations prohibit their use. Another obstacle is you will likely have to pay cash upfront for the structure, as mortgage lenders often deny loans for ADUs.

Tiny Homes

It wasn’t so long ago that Americans we enamored of the idea that bigger is better when it came to housing. Over the last decade, Americans have done a lot of soul-searching on whether the price tag on those mega-homes was really worth it, and….voila! The trend of tiny homes was born.

The first thing to know about tiny homes is that they’re, in a word, tiny. The average tiny home is less than 200 square feet, compared to a rough average of 2500 square feet for a typical American home. They are not for everyone, but there are perks that many people find appealing.

Tiny homes:

  • cost a fraction of typical housing costs, resulting in less debt and more savings
  • are moveable, so owners can easily pull up stakes if they wish
  • appeal to people of nearly all ages (2 out of 5 tiny house owners are over 50)
  • have unique design features that help maximize space
  • create a smaller environmental footprint that a traditional home

The tiny home movement is also part of a broader social movement that embraces environmental consciousness, simpler living, and focuses on experiences over things. You’ll find virtual tiny home communities on numerous social media platforms.

As with granny pods, tiny homes face obstacles in terms of zoning and lack of traditional financing options. Mortgage lenders view tiny homes as poor investments and usually won’t issue loans.

In-law Apartments and Moving in with Family

In many cultures worldwide, grown children stay nearby their parents, especially when their raising families of their own. Intergenerational living is the default option.

In America, we value independence and freedom. We move far away from family for work, for adventure, even for love of the topography of another state.

Yet, we’ve begun to rethink these values and recognize what’s missing. All of our independence often leaves us without a support system. We miss out on the bonds that can enrich our lives, no matter what our age. That’s why so many people are creating in-law apartments or turning a dining room into another bedroom.

The number of people living in multigenerational homes has almost doubled since 1980. An increasing number of home buyers are looking for housing that flexible enough to accommodate their senior parents. Part of this is economic, no doubt, but we’re longing for more connection, too.

Intergenerational living has plenty of benefits, for grandparents, parents, and children. Time with family, health benefits for seniors, and more adults for children to interact with are just some of the pluses. Economic benefits include decreased housing costs and less money spent on senior care.

You want to consider a number of things before taking the plunge on living under the same roof as your adult children or other family. Consider the exact accommodations. Would you have a separate kitchen and living area? If not, will you be comfortable sharing those? Can you easily get away from the noise of children and teenagers when you wish? Do you have the privacy you need?

Finally, and most importantly, think about whether you’re ready to be interdependent with other people, offering and accepting help as needed.


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