Siblings often have trouble agreeing on anything, so why should it be any different when it comes to Mom and Dad’s elder care? Unfortunately those of us in estate planning and elder law see quite often how families have a very difficult time when it comes to determining what is best for aging parents.
In some cases, one sibling may be expected to take on an unreasonable portion of the elder care with other siblings not recognizing (or possibly not caring) that it is a hardship. Other times, siblings simply can’t agree on the best course of medical intervention or the choice of an assisted living facility.
An estate planning and elder law attorney can actually help to avoid or work through some of these issues.
The best approach is to start early. Most siblings can likely agree that having your parents make their wishes known in advance is a good thing. The attorney can help them draw up some very important documents before they are even needed.
- Medical Power of Attorney – This names the person responsible for making medical decisions when the parent is unable to do it for himself or herself.
- Financial Power of Attorney – This is used to determine who will have control of the parents’ finances in order to keep the household going, pay medical bills, etc. during an illness or crisis.
- Living Will – A living will helps to outline the parents’ wishes when it comes to medical interventions and end-of-life care. Having this in place takes some of the burden off of the adult children who would otherwise be making these choices.
If possible, it’s best to have all of the siblings aware of and in agreement about these documents, as it can cut down on the amount of frustration later.
When things do become more intense and these documents come into play, it is still likely that siblings will have disagreements about what is best. The one who has the largest responsibility for day-to-day elder care may become resentful, while another may also harbor resentments that someone else was chosen to take care of the parents’ finances. Throw in the emotions that surface when facing your parents’ mortality, and there is potential for a major explosion.
In order to diffuse the situation, an elder law attorney can direct you to other forms of outside help. For example, some families choose to hire a “geriatric care manager.” This person is able to manage many aspects of the parent’s care, and because he or she isn’t a family member, much of the associated drama is mitigated. When a situation has become too out of hand, the siblings may need to agree to use a mediator. This impartial listener can help to determine the best course of action for getting the parents the care they need while meeting the needs of the siblings as appropriately as possible.
In order to salvage an uncomfortable family situation, it may be advisable for members to seek family counseling. This is most likely to work when all of the members are invested in a positive outcome. Your elder law attorney can help direct you to many resources for counselors and mediators here in Orange County.