Pulling it together for Mom.
Over the years I’ve worked with many families who were trying to work together to get the best result for their declining parent. Sometimes this can be a difficult task. Families generally love each other and especially love their Mom or Dad. However a problem can arise when it comes to communicating with siblings.
Distance doesn’t help
In many situations, the siblings each graduated high school then left home to attend college, enlist in the military or go to their first “real” job, which may have been miles away from the family home. They then married, had kids and set out to live life in their new home. Over the years, most adult kids keep fairly regular contact with their parents. However the same kids may have neglected to maintain the same level of closeness and communication with their siblings.
It is not unusual for the entire family to get together only once or twice per year. However even in those situations, it is common for not everyone to be there. In larger families at least one or two of the siblings will be missing because something “came up at the last minute” and they could not come. As a result. it may have been many years since the whole family was together in the same room.
Finally – They Have Something in Common
For most of their adult life, the siblings have very little in common. They live separate lives, have different beliefs, and develop their own ideals as to what is right and wrong and good and proper. Now the one thing that they do have in common rises to the surface and forces them all to work together to achieve a common result. That “thing” is often the only thing they still have in common – Mom.
Because of everything discussed above, the task of working together may you be much tougher than originally imagined. Over the years we have seen many families who were very good at traversing these potentially stormy waters – and we have seen several families that got swallowed by the waves. If you are currently struggling to work with siblings to achieve a good “going forward plan” for Mom, here are a few things you can do to make things work a little better.
Work Together with Siblings
Communication is a biggie!
In my experience, the families that I have seen work together to get the best results for their declining parent are great communicators. As a matter of fact, communication seems to be the #1 thing that either makes or breaks the planning process. It is important to communicate with all siblings regularly to discuss everything that is happening and next steps.
Another biggie; hold nothing back. Make sure all siblings know everything. Keeping things secret is one way to torpedo the whole process.
Have a system so you can work together
Develop a system for working together and communicating frequently and on a regular basis. A few tips:
- Agree on information gathering tasks – In situations where you meet to discuss everything (like at a Mom Centered Family Meeting) discuss who will gather what information. This spreads the load and builds trust – everyone is coming up with a critical piece of the puzzle.
- Make sure everyone knows where group calls or meetings will happen and everyone has an agenda in advance.
- Once a plan is created, it should be clear what everyone is to do and when follow up calls are to happen.
- Have an online system that everyone can access to see notes, memos, accounting (what came in and what was spent) and all communication with professionals (doctors, attorneys and financial advisors).
- Have a pivot plan – what will you do when things change?
Of course, there are always exceptions, to the above suggestions, such as situations where you are already embroiled in litigation or legal entanglements with a sibling. If this is the case, follow the advice of your attorney. Hopefully this is not the situation with your family! Just because you are distant does not mean that you can’t forge a way to work together.
You may have spoken very little over the years, but now you have a reason to talk. Remember the old days when you did talk and work and play together. Reflect on the good times together when you were kids at home. “Those kids” may have been jaded by the rigors of life – but they are still there. You just have to look hard sometimes to find them.
Use the simple rules outlined above and give it a shot – see if you can pull the family together for the benefit of Mom and each other. Who knows – maybe you will (1) enjoy the process; (2) rediscover a sibling relationship; and (3) will find other ways to communicate and work together in the future.
We want to work together as friends!
Ok. That might come off a little fast, considering we barely know each other. However, we fully understand the stress and turmoil that you are facing as Family Caregiver.
In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community!
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