Navigating Care with Your Siblings

Family2004Every family has some conflict. When my parent’s health started to fail, it took time for my siblings to catch up to me. I was the local one who spent a lot of time with my parents as an adult. I noticed changing behaviors and memory issues. Every attempt to help my parents was poorly received, even when they called me to ask for it. By the time my siblings started to see the issues, I was resigned to silently watch and would respond when the hospital or the police called me. When my siblings started to see how poorly my parents were doing, they had to talk me back into trying.

Together, we set up interventions. All four adult children brought in lunch at my parent’s home and we shared our concerns together. Both times, our parents were polite but rebuffed the suggestion that they should consider any lifestyle changes. During this time, we set up monthly phone calls to touch base on issues. We used a free conference call site called TalkShoe.

When the retirement community threatened to terminate my parents continuing care contract, we moved to weekly calls as we prepared to navigate a very difficult period. We have had disagreements over everything from care choices, the disposal of assets, and even the menu at my dad’s burial. Early on, we set up rules of the road to help us. We agreed that:

  1. Spouses are invited to participate, but only direct descendants vote.
  2. It’s okay to disagree, but not okay to be disagreeable.
  3. Majority rules on any vote unless it impacts any of us financially. If the outcome of the vote impacts us financially, the vote must be unanimous.

With four of us, you would think we would have had issues with voting. If we found the topic got a little too heated, we would table an issue and plan on date and time to reconvene to discuss it.

I had already stepped in and had collected information (using the MemoryBanc Register) on most of their accounts after they signed two contracts for home repairs and one was predatory. I was on the bank account and was monitoring cash flow and bill payments in the background to ensure they were not victims of fraud. We had to prepare and sell their second home, down-size furniture, sell cars, distribute family heirlooms … and figure out how we would manage and share the load because it was too much for one person to bear.

We made up a list and assigned roles. Here is the guide we used to help:

Care Giving Role Duties Responsible
Physical Provide or support activities of daily living (dressing, feeding, bathing etc.) and ensure safety.
Medical Manage the medical needs, doctor visits and medications. Coordinate with various doctors and follow-up on issues and concerns. Healthcare directives, Medical Power of Attorney, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
Personal/Financial Manage bill payments and cash flow as well as knowledge of legal documents and locations. Will need Financial Power of Attorney, be on bank accounts.
Investment Understand and manage the investments and other financial assets.
Legal Manage legal review of documents and if different coordinate with Personal/Financial to ensure documents in place and timely.
Historian Collect, organize and archive photos, letters, family keepsakes.
Realtor Lead decisions on property and manage vendor selection and transactions.

We were able to work through a host of issues that could have shattered any family. Luckily, we were able to use this to build stronger bonds. We still schedule regular calls to review finances, mom’s care, and discuss any ongoing issues, but now we are all on the same page and able to focus on doing what is best for our mom.

This breakdown and how we navigated won’t work for every family, but I hope it will give you some idea’s on what might work for yours. Shared. 

13 thoughts on “Navigating Care with Your Siblings

  1. This is FANTASTIC. Wish I had seen this years ago when my siblings and I were navigating thru this with my Mom. Will share with my husband’s family who will be going thru this with his parents. Thank you!

  2. Kay – you have no idea how you have opened my eyes (and my husband’s) …. we are starting on this path with his parents. Hope we can see each other soon!

  3. Excellent. Fortunately my sister and I live in the same town – especially fortunate when dad’s wife of 40 years refused to having anything more to do with caring for him and walked out. I moved in and my sister and I, helped by my OH, shared all aspects of the care – mostly always on the same page.

  4. I am now going through this but without my brother. It’s devastating, a death daily. It’s just impossible without him, he’d know how to help and manage mum, so to speak. I constantly find myself thinking what would J do? It seems to be the only tool I have in my toolbox. S

    1. Give yourself time. We all move through grief differently. It will get less impossible and you will start to recognize and learn how to navigate with your mum. I’m sorry to hear of both losses. Your mum is lucky to have you. Please tell me how it’s going.

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