Baby Boomers and Boomerangers, these are signs of the times. Another sign of these times has all to do with the care of and for aging parents. You or colleagues from your office or workplace, leave their “day job” and head off to another job, the job of caregiver. This creates stress emotionally, personally and financially and the boom of this trend is just underway.
Then there is the issue of Siblings! For some lucky families, having a bunch of adult siblings gather around and plan how to take care of Mom and Dad as their parents’ health begins to fail is a great comfort. For some families, siblings who never got along as kids and have had little to do with each other as adults being thrown together to make touchy decisions is disastrous.
For most families, the journey through the mine of elder care decisions falls somewhere between the two extremes. Elder care has a way of sneaking up on people. Generally, if there is an adult child living in the same town as the aging parents, it is this child who becomes, at the first sign of need, the default caregiver. That usually makes sense. You live in town.
Even in seemingly harmonious families, the person who slowly became a default caregiver can start to feel resentful. The out-of-town siblings can conveniently slide into denial or even feel guilty for not being close by. Either way, they aren’t around to see how much help is needed. They see Mom and Dad occasionally, talk to them on the phone, and all seems well. The fact that you, the in-town sibling, are the reason everything is going so smoothly doesn’t really register with them.
This is a red flag for you. It’s time to stop and consider how you are, as a family, going to handle the spiraling needs of aging parents.
Unfortunately, the chances of a civil family meeting where you hash out the needs of your elders and agree who does what are, well, nil. I often will see caregivers stressing over siblings accusing them of spending too much of their parents money to care for their parents as well as pleas for help from the one sibling who has quit his or her job to care full time for an ailing parent being either ignored by siblings, or worse, being accused of predatory intentions because they are “running the show.”
Resentments nurtured at this time can poison family relationships for generations. If you are the default family caregiver, ask siblings for help early on. Let them know they are wanted (drop the martyr act).
If they have been given a chance and they refuse, Mediation is designed to solve family issues. Think about creating plans before the situation actually arises. It could be one of the best investments you’ve ever made for everyone involved.
Roseann Vanella is a Professional Family Mediator and President at Advanced Mediation Solutions in Cherry Hill, NJ with additional offices in Philadelphia, PA. Roseann mediates Divorce, Post Divorce, Parenting Plans, Child Custody, Estate Settlements, Elder Issues and all family matters. She is also host of Family Affairs, a weekly Blog Talk Radio Show focusing on family matters. She may be reached at 856.669.7172 or firstname.lastname@example.org