Kelli, a friend of mine, and I were sharing about our caregiving roles this week and hearing of her dilemma was heartbreaking to me. Kelli's parents live out of state and their health has deteriorated to the point they can no longer care for themselves or each other. Her brother, who lives near their parents, doesn't want their parents to leave the home place, and the parents don't want a "live in" person to help them. So brother and sister are now in conflict as to the best thing to do for their parents.
I am praying much for Kelli, for she and her brother need great wisdom and a true meeting of the minds regarding what is truly best for their parents. As we talked I realized that this is an area in which I am not experienced. I was able to compassionately listen to her, but I had no words of advise to share.
Before my Mom ever became ill and needed help, I had begun to pray that the Lord would make a way for me to care for her when the time came. When Mom's illness became too much for her to handle alone, I was unemployed and easily able to take on this new role. My husband loves Mom dearly and has wanted her in our home since day one, so that has never been a conflict for us. My 2 brothers, sister-in-law, and even my husband's sister are all willing to do whatever they can and in our emergencies have been here to help - even when that call for help has been at 2 a.m.!
As I have tried to get a better grasp on this other aspect of the caregiving role, I am learning that my situation may not be unique but it is very different from what so many others are living thru on a daily basis. Here are some thoughts that I came across that can be helpful in relationships, not just the intensity of caregiving:
1. Sibling rivalries or conflicts with parents doesn't just evaporate when an aging parent needs care and the added stress of this new situation can intensify those rivalries.
2. Cooperation among siblings gives the best overall care for both the aging parent and the caregiving child.
3. Equality in the caregiving is unrealistic - accept that and adjust.
4. Talk about the care situation before the need for the parent's care arrives.
5. Find each others strengths and weaknesses and work with those.
6. When the conflict, especially with the very touchy areas of the parent's finances and/or health demands, cannot be negotiated by the siblings, consider a neutral, 3rd party. Sometimes a neutral family counselor can be the best navigator thru decisions that cannot be worked out on your own.
7. Today is not your life for the rest of your life.
8. Be kind and loving to each other - you need to still be a family after the funeral.
Below are several websites with more good information on caring for our elderly parents and dealing with our siblings in this time of our lives. Whether you are the caregiver or the sibling or spouse of the caregiver, these articles provide very helpful information.
Stay on your knees and keep looking up!