As senior issues and caregiver concerns get more media attention, more and more families are making the question of who becomes mom or dad’s primary caregiver a family decision. Although one sibling may still take on the role of “primary caregiver,” families are making the conscious decision to try to share caregiving responsibilities more equally. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but as this article from the Family Caregiver Alliance points out, there are still likely to be challenges.
Choosing a Primary Caregiver. The primary caregiver often ends up being the sibling who lives closest to mom or dad; it may start with a ride to the doctor here and there, but before you know it one sibling is shouldering almost all the responsibilities. Discussing the role of primary caregiver as a family can make everyone feel more involved and result in more support for mom or dad. The local sibling may still choose to care for parents’ daily needs, but out of town siblings may choose to take mom or dad on annual vacations or provide financial support.
Making Financial Decisions. Hopefully your parents have made arrangements for their long-term care expenses; but if not, you and your siblings may feel honor-bound to take care of the expenses yourselves. While the most logical route may seem to be an equal division of expenses between siblings, this may not be feasible or fair for every family. Siblings should take the time (and perhaps consult with an advisor) to discuss the various medical and care expenses, payment options, and financial strategies. Check to see if any public benefits may be available to help, such as Veterans Pension Benefits.
Living Arrangements and Long Term Care. Facing the reality that mom can no longer care for herself is a painful revelation for any family; making the decision to move a parent to a nursing home or long term care facility can be fraught with feelings of anger, guilt, or even denial, and siblings may be tempted to lash out at each other during this emotional time. Consulting with a Geriatric Care Manager or another trusted advisor at this time can help the entire family understand the situation, manage expectations, and keep emotions in check.
Making decisions as a committee can be difficult, especially when some members of the “committee” live far away, but when everyone is involved in the decision-making process then everyone is more likely to support a final outcome. Getting together with your sibling on a regular basis—even if it’s only by phone—to discuss the care of elderly parents can not only keep everyone on the same page and minimize disagreements, it can also provide a rare opportunity to grow closer as a family.