How siblings can avoid fighting over caregiving disagreements

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Janet Smith is an attorney and founder of Northwest Elder Law Group. She will be presenting at Discovery 2019.

By Janet L. Smith

As your parents get older, it may become increasingly important for you and your siblings to come together and help your parents find the best caregiving options. Depending on the circumstances and the health of your parents, you may be able to hire in-home caregivers that allow your parents to stay in their own home. In other situations, an assisted living facility, adult family home, memory care community or a skilled nursing facility may be more appropriate.

No matter what decision you and your parents ultimately make, it is helpful when siblings can be on the same page about these decisions. Having conversations about these plans, however, is not always easy. Family members sometimes have different ideas about honoring autonomy versus enhancing safety. These conflicts can create lasting rifts within your family.

To help prevent a disagreement from becoming a contentious fight, keep the following in mind when discussing your parents’ future caregiving needs with your siblings.

It is not a competition

You and your siblings care deeply about your parents, and you all want what’s best for them. The end goal should not be to try to win a debate. Instead, focus on trying to find an effective agreement that helps ensure you are honoring your parents’ wishes while also meeting their long-term care needs.

Keep your parents involved

One of the primary factors that leads to conflict is disagreement over what mom and dad want. Parents need to be involved in the decision-making process, to the extent they are able to participate. A geriatric care manager can help explore care options, and lead a discussion on the pros and cons of different scenarios.

When you cannot resolve the disagreement, consider mediation

There are situations where, no matter how much effort you and your siblings put into the conversation, you simply cannot reach a final decision that everyone feels good about. In these circumstances, it can be beneficial to consider using mediation to help get your family through the disagreement.

Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution method where a neutral third party — the mediator — helps families resolve their disputes amicably. Mediators do not impose a decision on the family. Instead, they help facilitate the conversation between you and your siblings. Using mediation can help your family work collaboratively to find common ground that makes resolving the dispute a possibility.

Working together to find a solution you all feel comfortable with can help keep the peace, and make sure that a parent’s wishes are honored and care needs are met


Janet L. Smith, founder of Northwest Elder Law Group PLLC, is an attorney providing services in elder law, estate planning, estate administration, guardianship, TEDRA disputes and elder mediation. Janet regularly serves as a mediator in multi-party elder law, guardianship, TEDRA and probate disputes, and serves a facilitator for family meetings involving elder care or end-of-life decisions. Janet will be presenting on  at the Discovery Conference on March 8, 2019 on “Conflict Resolution – How do we calm the troubled waters for professionals?”  

Register for Discovery 2019 HERE.

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