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Sibling rivalry and caregiving: Not a good mix

Anyone who grew up with siblings understands how easy it is to fall into the same patterns of their childhood, even when they are adults. The oldest siblings might still tease the youngest, and the youngest might quickly become defensive and upset.

You may think that you leave these patterns behind when you are an adult, but the same issues often reappear later in life, especially when it comes to caring for an elderly parent.

It is risky when old sibling rivalries resurface

Unfortunately, when siblings responsible for their parent's care fall into old patterns of a sibling rivalry, it is the parents who suffer most--not the siblings. The care often becomes less of a priority when siblings are distracted by arguments, accusations and perhaps even power struggles.

This is common since caregiving is a stressful responsibility. And it is easy for that stress to bring out the worst in people. But it is dangerous to let those rivalries fester and put your parent at risk.

What can you do to overcome the rivalry?

It can be a challenge to set the rivalry aside, but there are a few helpful tips that can help siblings navigate the pressure of caregiving a little easier.

  1. Always put your parent's needs first: This can be difficult if parents are in the beginning stages of dementia or another disease that leaves them incapacitated. However, it is still possible for siblings to consider their parent's wishes. Whether or not those wishes are listed in a living will or another estate planning document, you most likely still knew your parent well. You should always consider what your parent would want and need when making a decision. 
  2. Try to work as a team: Even if you do not get along with your siblings, it is still possible to work together. It is helpful to consider your parent's needs and all of the responsibilities you will need to complete early on. Then, you and your siblings can divide those responsibilities in a detailed caregiving plan.
  3. Communicate, even when it is hard: Regardless of your emotions, communication is critical when caring for a parent as a team. Communicating concerns and other information can help relieve tensions and ensure that your parent's care comes first. 
  4. Get outside help: If it is necessary, you can find a professional third party to act as a mediator between your siblings when it comes to caregiving decisions you cannot agree on.

It can be a challenge to set emotions aside and cooperate with siblings you disagree with. However, these tips can help siblings ensure that any rivalry will not get in the way of the care their parents need.

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