Sharing elder care with siblings, do not demand it, do not expect it and do not rule out a facility.


Long time reader, occasional participant. I'm absolutely no professional on this but ... between my parents, my in-laws, my uncle, extended family, friends and (being old myself) ... me I've some tangential experiences.

Caring for your loved ones can be a pain and, often, sibling interactions can make it even worse. In another post a caretaker lamented ... it's not like the slacker siblings are even going to see any of these posts.

Well, I'm one of those "slackers" and I read this stuff regularly. God bless the caretakers but ...

If one sibling makes the decision that Mom or Dad should stay home they just can't demand that everyone else see it their way and/or just jump on board.

Of course none of us should ignore our elderly parents but we all need to balance what's best for them along with what's best for ourselves. If we impoverish ourselves on behalf of our parents are we not setting ourselves (and our own kids) up for the same frustrations?

Suze Orman, the leather clad finance expert, often says, "Do what's best for yourself first as that's often what's best for your family."

My suggestion is that each sibling pretend that they are an "only child" and come up with a care plan.

Now if all siblings' plans were to immerse themselves 24 x 7 in Mom's care then it makes sense that all siblings should share the load somewhat equitably.

But if sister's plan is to immerse herself 24 x 7 while brother's care plan is to move Mom into a facility then where does sister get off demanding 12 x 7 (equal) participation from brother?

Ditto for the "single child" who's got the$100K (and more) to send Mom to a "memory care unit" and then demands I ante up half. Ain't no way (not on a $15K pension and $15K Social Security).

No parent is perfect but I do believe many to be good or, at least, well-intentioned. While parents may strive to love all their children equally they often have a one size fits all parenting plan which works for some kids but, often, not for all kids. Thus, siblings will often have different memories and different feelings about their childhood and for their parents.

And some parents are, and always were, just plain ol' jackasses. Just because they get old doesn't mean they are suddenly saints deserving of around the clock love and care. (I think if a parent is demanding to remain at home while the kids cater to them that they are exactly the kind of parent that belongs in a facility.)

I think siblings do owe each other complete honesty about how they feel and what they can or can't do and I think they owe each other respect for their view (yes, even if you think it's a bit selfish).

One family is ripping on this lady I know. They have careers, important jobs and/or own their own businesses. They don't have "free time" like the "9 to 5'ers". Plus "this lady" lives just a block away (rather than in the affluent suburbs). They all feel she should be checking in before work then after work (meal time) and then again in the evening (hey, it's just one block over).

They also feel she should be able to leave work to handle a crisis that might arise during the day. (She can, she's just an hourly employee, just a clerk.)

Because she's older, old enough to collect Social Security, they all think she should retire so she can spend more time with their parents. (She's working a couple more years so she can retire ... more comfortably.)

When she does go to help (several times a week) old wounds reopen; the constant criticism, the fights, the brutal beatings. The siblings say, "Oh, just get over it already." But you don't just get over it; PTSD is a process and it's different for everybody.

Yes, some siblings are jackasses but give it a try. Be honest with each other, be respectful, maybe even use a professional counselor to keep things on track. Give in if the family consensus is a nursing home (as that would mean you wouldn't be able to count on your siblings for a lot of help anyway). Your parents' care and safety is what's important. (Medicare will kick in once your parents run out of money.)

Best wishes ...

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Bump for kirchner

This is a great thread, it lends true balance to the discussion around elder care.

Totally agreed. I have a feeling that younger people are so mobile these days that moving into a retirement community will be the norm. The older generations tended to buy a house and stay there. The house became a part of who they were. Giving it up is hard to do, even when it would be better for everyone. I really do hate the sentiment "I am going to die in this house" because it means someone will have to sacrifice greatly to make it come true. Most old people don't realize that they lose the capacity to keep a house going. Their family has to figure out what makes the most sense and go with it from there.

Hi Jessie,

Thanks for your patience and indulgence.

You said, "... older people in your life are not like objects that can be moved about"

The flip side is that kids are not objects that should be manipulated by their elders.

I'm still cherishing what CWillie said, "... I have no doubt that some of us persist in care-giving to the detriment of ourselves and even our care recipient."

It's all a frustratingly impossible balancing act. Caretakers need to be reminded that they (and their lives) are at least as important as their elders' lives are.

One thing I've learned, and I'm writing it down, I WILL accept outside help as needed in my old age such that my kids will never come to view me as a burden. I have no fear of facilities, I know "giving up" my independence is one way of maintaining my independence.

Best wishes ...

Well, I went back and read the rest of your post and saw you really came to the same conclusion. It does seem you've been wrestling intellectually with what should be done and what can be done, just like we all are. And we all end up at the point of taking things one day at a time as things get worse.

Helpless, I was reading most of your posts. I kind of wandered off the longer one, to tell the truth. About the time you said you could use a POA to force a will on a parent, I realized that you are talking about the older people in your life like objects that can be moved about. They are not game board pieces. A POA does not give the power to move someone about against their will. As long as they are competent, they can choose to do what they want. The only thing we can do is decide what we will do in response. It is okay to choose not to be a caregiver. Most people in the US probably aren't cut out for it. But you cannot decide that your parent has to move to a facility if they don't want to and are still competent. People retain their rights throughout their lives. A POA is simply an instrument that lets you serve as an agent to the signer. It does not grant the right for you to take charge of their life as long as they are competent to direct their own life. Even when they are incompetent, a POA may not be sufficient. It is what guardianships are for.


Just read your most recent post while I was replying to someone else. Very happy to hear you reevaluated recently. That was largely my point. Do explore alternatives. Do reevaluate. Do modify as needed. Just giving yourself permission to think otherwise can "re-empower" you. One of my friends found a volunteer service that would stop by a couple times a week. It was just enough to take the edge off.

When I get grumpy at work I look at other jobs. Often I realize, hey, this ain't so bad afterall (sorry, not a great analogy).

You said, "... I have no doubt that some of us persist in care-giving to the detriment of ourselves and even our care recipient." I couldn't agree more.

You said in one succinct sentence what took me thousands of words of incoherent rambling to never quite make the point I was trying to make.

Luv ya.

It wasn't easy. The daughter cried while the mother damned her to hell.

Just got back from my son's (babysitting grandkids). The neighbor sat with my wife sobbing away. Her Mom had lived with her for years. They even bought a new house to better accommodate her and it worked ok for years until it just reached that point. The "wake-up call" was calling an ambulance to take her 75 year old husband to the hospital and not being able to go with him. It's two weeks later and her Mom calls everyday to bitch her out.

Another friend sent his Mom to the same facility. She spit and cursed. A month later she was loving her new home and all her new friends.

My Mom's a sweetheart and, truth be told, I would have had her live with me in a heart beat but between having a multi-storied house and a lively (ADHD) little grandson who lives with me (she doesn't tolerate him very well, doesn't even like visiting with us when he's home) it was not to be.

My wife knows the day is near when we will be placing her Dad. She dreads it but we all know there is no choice. In-home care/help has been great but it does have its limits. Two years ago we predicted the negative impact him living at home would have on his wife. Even though she does little to nothing on his behalf (they had a miserable marriage) it's just the "being there".

ALL the kids scrambled to make things work while she was in the hospital for a week and have hired 24 x 7 in-home care for both of them now that she's back. Short term it's working, long term it's not tenable. One or both will have to relocate in the very near future.

My understanding is even if they are "legally competent" that if they can't take care of themselves / if they're in danger you can use your DPOA for what's in their best interest. If you don't have one you can bring in Adult Protective Services and/or file for guardianship.

I do understand it's not easy. It's not easy caring for your loved ones nor is taking the "next step". I've been rambling on to remind people there are alternatives. You may choose not to take them but you should revisit them periodically. Just exploring them and re-rejecting them may make you feel a little better about your choices.

I'm facing that again myself. It took me years to get my Mom to move after Dad passed. She's really happy at her senior center but her dementia is beginning to put her at risk. It's time to get in-home to visit her everyday. That will probably delay the inevitable for a year or so. Strange how insurances etc. will help get you started towards facilities but do little to nothing to help avoid/delay a facility with in-home care.

Best wishes ...

Helpless, I spent some time reevaluating this Spring, I'm good.
I think your post pushed a few of my buttons, at first glance implying a "you made your bed" kind of attitude. After reading on this site I have no doubt that some of us persist in caregiving to the detriment of ourselves and even our care recipient. It is definitely a balancing act that needs periodic review.

I liked reading what you wrote. The mother was very passive in either going to a home or with the wife. For many of us if we try to move our parent from here to there, we are likely to lose an arm. Something frequently heard from parents is, "I am going to die in this house." You can't get them out with a shoehorn until something catastrophic happens. So all the siblings can say that a parent needs to go to a home, but the parent says no. If the parent is not legally incompetent, he/she can make the decision where to live.

I thought of how nice it would be if kids could just passively move their parent where they needed them to be. The wish of the parent, rather than the wish of any of the children, is what ends up creating the family caregiver situation in many or most circumstances. I don't blame an elder for not wanting to give up their home, but I do think it is sad when a child gives up their life to make it happen. The give and take is totally out of balance.

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