The search for holiday perfection can set the bar high for caregivers. Starting as early as Thanksgiving, they’re flooded by images of families happily enjoying one another. And why not? As a home healthcare provider, we know family support goes a long way for parents aging in place. But when adult siblings are involved, they also can have their differences on parents’ needs. Left unchecked, these differences can bring out the best and worst in family relationships – especially during the holidays.
The demands of caregiving can challenge sibling rivalries and shift the focus away from parent care. When this happens, family members sometimes find themselves arguing over past wounds. Siblings not on good speaking terms may dwell on negative pasts.
“The holidays can bring back all of the pecking-order stuff that siblings thought they could forget,” says Wika Puuohau, RN, Client Service Supervisor at Attention Plus Care. “It can return adults back to small-kid time.”
A sibling who is less active with caregiving also may seem distant and react with more anger or blame toward other siblings. Sometimes, this is an attempt to avoid facing the eventual passing and loss of a terminally ill parent. On the other hand, a more involved sibling may react differently and express more sadness or grief. When caregiving duties for a parent begin, one sibling also may take over as the primary caregiver and cause disagreements among siblings about who is in charge. The more involved, active caregiver is now at risk for burnout, while the other sibling takes a backseat to watch the show. “That’s when I put my coaching hat on,” Puuohau adds.
These situations can add to the stress and resentment siblings already may have for one another, brought on by the holidays, interfering with the priorities of caring for parents. Siblings not talking with one another, or not wanting to keep others informed about their parents’ condition, also can hinder important information from getting to a healthcare provider. So how can family members and siblings work together to care for parents? Here are tips for siblings during the holidays:
♥ Make time for sibling communications.
♥ Share realistic expectations and goals.
♥ Keep lines of communication open.
♥ Seek to understand first instead of blame.
♥ Get input from those affected by decisions.
♥ Accept family as they are and not as you wish.
♥ Seek common ground during calmer times.
♥ Use an objective party to facilitate disputes.
♥ Be thankful and share gratitude with others.
Adult siblings caring for parents can make the most of their time and efforts together. With preparation, the holidays can be a time for new traditions and positive experiences for siblings. It also can be a chance for rivals to be on better terms with one another for years to come. Now that’s a gift our parents really want!
ATTENTION PLUS CARE HOME HEALTHCARE
Accredited by The Joint Commission
AGING IN HAWAII EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH PROGRAM by Attention Plus Care — a program providing resources for seniors and their families, covering different aging topics each month. For class information and upcoming topics, call 808-440-9356.