Linda called me on the phone from Oregon. "All of us siblings want the best care for Dad. We all agree on the right course. Except my one sister who refuses to listen." I could hear her voice crackle as she continued. "She drives Dad crazy, and he'll do anything to get her to go away, including agreeing to things he'd never say yes to otherwise. What do we do?"
Linda isn't alone. Perhaps you have a sibling from Hades. She is sure about the RIGHT way to care for your aging parent, be it home care, assisted living or other care. No one else in your family agrees with her plan; but that doesn't stop her from using anger to try to convince you. Whether it's mental illness, a major case of selfishness, greediness, or leftover sibling rivalry from long ago, something is keeping your sibling from rational thinking, from the give and take that brings solid solutions.
Over the years I've picked up these tips from adult children who make decisions about their parent's care while grappling with a difficult sibling.
1. Realize issues with your sibling will continue. He or she didn't just wake up one day recently wanting to micromanage things. That behavior has likely been around for a while. One game plan is to avoid talking one on one with your sibling about the "health care topic." You can say something like, "It's really important for us to talk about Dad's care. I want all of us to have input so we can make a joint decision." If she keeps talking about the subject, you might say, "I feel uncomfortable discussing this until we can all get together."
2. Call a family meeting. Linda's brother and sisters did this. Everyone came, including the difficult sibling. One sister with business acumen chaired it and kept order. All parties had a chance to speak about Dad's health care. At the first meeting, they didn't come to a firm conclusion, but everyone aired thoughts and feelings. They also spoke about Dad's wants, and how due to his dementia, those desires might not be realistic. At their next meeting, they agreed to have a nurse join them
3. Enlist a professional. Many nurses, psychologists and social workers specialize in helping families of the elderly sort through issues. They're called Geriatric Care Managers. Linda's family met with a nurse who sorted out their dad's needs as well as those of the family. Adult children were given a "to-do" list. The presence of a professional often tames the crazy behavior of the difficult sibling, at least until a definite plan can be agreed on.
Do any of you have a sibling that makes it difficult for you to make decisions regarding your aging parent's health care? How have you handled it?