How can my siblings and I cope with the huge conflict of sharing care for our father who has Alzheimer’s disease?
Maintaining open communication between siblings is important in caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. As your father becomes more dependent on all of you for care and support, the number of conflicts may increase. As the illness progresses and each sibling becomes involved in his or her care, sibling rivalry can be renewed, and conflict can sometimes tear the family apart.
It is very helpful to organize your father’s care plan. Bring your siblings together for a family meeting to exchange ideas and share responsibilities and tasks. There should be many frank and open discussions to determine everyone’s responsibilities and roles and what future plans should be made for your father’s care. Each of your siblings, for example, can contribute what they are capable of. Some may have special skills or talents in the areas of finance, housekeeping, nursing, etc., and thus, roles can be easily assigned. Often, between siblings who are at odds, family meetings can be arranged by a social worker, mediator or counselor who works with the siblings on an agreed care plan. They can find and build a middle ground between brothers and therefore, build a good bond between them.
Sibling disputes over custody of a parent, or parents, often have to do with injustice and inheritance. Your sibling may appear to be starving as he is the heavy burden of caring for that parent. Because of the distance, sometimes, siblings who live far away are “out of the loop” when it comes to caregiving and therefore the closest siblings take on the responsibility of caregiving. Conflict can arise when caregivers ask other children for help and choose to ignore or criticize the caregivers’ approach. This is a constant source of hurt and resentment for those siblings who take on the day-to-day caregiving roles. Also, communication plays an important role in helping things go smoothly in your father’s care.
When money is in the mix, there is often a conflict between siblings over power and control. When your sibling or siblings are feeling the strain of caring for him or her, money can cause friction. Siblings who are taking care of the children may feel that they deserve a larger share of the inheritance because they have had a greater share of the burden of care. Or conflict may arise when one sibling controls the money and the other children feel that too much money is being spent on caring for the parent. Your father’s financial situation should be discussed openly at a family meeting and you and your siblings come to a spending arrangement to carry out your father’s wishes in his care plan, and agree to appoint someone who will be financially responsible.
Your father’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease can be long and difficult, and caregiving can be stressful in itself without the weight of family conflict and discord. Finally, you and your siblings must understand that everything is about your father and his care and quality of life, so everyone must try to stop any anger and / or long-term resentment. If there is an uncooperative sibling, move forward with acceptance and understanding so that your father receives the most important part of the care, and does not have to feel that he is a source of conflict in his family.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders can be directed to Dana Territo, author of “What My Grandchildren Taught Me About Alzheimer’s Disease,” at [email protected]