Your elderly father lives alone and was recently hospitalized for a serious illness. Dad’s back at home again, but while he was in the hospital some “bad blood” between you and your siblings resurfaced. As a result, you’re now concerned that those old childhood rivalries will keep dad from getting the best care possible once his health starts to decline. What should you do? One of the best ways to ensure that all siblings will come together cohesively when caring for an aging parent is to choose a family spokesperson beforehand.
Sibling Rivalries are Common
In most families it’s not uncommon when an elderly parent is experiencing health problems for the old roles and rivalries of their adult children to present again. Siblings within a given family can show personality traits ranging from dominant and bossy, to apathetic and conflict-avoidance.
Feelings that may resurface during a family crisis include:
- Fear and anxiety
- Resentment and jealousy
- Sadness and grief
- Anger and hostility
Unfortunately, these repressed childhood emotions can interfere with what’s most important: ensuring the health and wellbeing of a loved one in need.
Family Spokesperson Responsibilities
Ensuring that your parent enjoys a higher quality of life as the aging process continues will go more efficiently by choosing a family spokesperson. The time to do so is before a health crisis, and not afterwards when emotions are running high. Some of the short or long-term care responsibilities that a family spokesperson might be asked to manage include:
Medical – Accompanying their loved one on doctor visits, coordinating their medical insurance benefits and communicating with their healthcare providers.
In the home – Managing a caregiver team based on each member’s availability and skills. Hiring professional in-home caregivers when needed.
Legal – Serving as a durable power-of-attorney (POA) to oversee any advanced directives, wills, trusts and other end-of-life documents that have already been prepared on their loved one’s behalf.
Financial – Obtaining access to a parent’s bank accounts and financial records to ensure that their monthly bills are getting paid on time.
Outside Assistance – They may have to bring in a licensed geriatric care manager, family mediator or financial planner to help resolve family differences.
Choosing the Right Spokesperson
If your siblings and extended family members are having a hard time agreeing upon what’s best for mom or dad, offer them an “olive branch” by hosting a strategy meeting at your home. Once everyone’s together, allow each person to take a turn and calmly and respectfully air their grievances in front of the group.
Once that’s done, discuss positive ways to resolve those differences that will focus attention back on the importance of providing your loved one with the ongoing support and nurturing they need. Then, discuss the necessity for having a family spokesperson to help ensure t