Sep 10, 2010

Caregivers: When your siblings aren't doing their fair share

In my elder law practice, I've observed time and time again that one child usually steps in to become the primary caregiver for a disabled parent.  Unfortunately, it's equally common for siblings to develop resentments over who is doing what and who should be contributing more.

By way of example, one client of mine who was disabled was living in a Florida assisted living facility. His daughter, the only child who lived in Florida, was the one who visited dad daily and handled the myriad of details related to dad's care. After doing this for about two years, the daughter's younger brother flew into town for a visit. At which point, he began making suggestions for how his sister could handle things better. They came to blows -- literally! -- and now, five years after dad's death, sister and brother are still not talking to one another. Sad, isn't it?

I read a blog recently by Martin Sabel that contained good advice for siblings dealing with these issues. Among his points:
1. Accept that there is no such thing as “fairness” when it comes to family care giving.
2. Communicate with your siblings and all family members - even the ones you don't get along with - and give them the opportunity to make a contribution of time and/or money. If possible, call a family meeting to air everyone's thoughts. Make specific lists as to what you need help with, be it money, transportation for doctor's appointments, handling paperwork, etc.
3. Focus on your parent's needs and try not to think about what everyone else should be doing.
4. Get as much help as you can in your community. Turn to social service organizations and your religious community, too. Click here for a list of Florida and national resources.

Your elder law attorney can be a big help in clarifying the legal and financial issues. There may be financial resources that are available to your parent that you don't know about that can help take some of the pressure out of the situation- for example, Medicaid or Veterans benefits.  

You can read Sabel's entire blog post here.

1 comment:

Martin Sabel said...

Thanks for passing on my tips, Mr. Karp. Caring for an aging parent is not done easily even with the help of other family members. But with good family communication the caregiver burden eases. Like you, I've seen families torn apart because they ignore this one idea. My prayer is your article will help families sidestep that caregiving landmine.

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