A family feud over inheritance or future inheritance is not uncommon in today’s world. Many uninvolved siblings do some underhanded things to get their aging parents to leave them a home, money etc. Nothing brings out the greed and conflict more than aging parents in need of care. As aging parents lose their independence and begin to rely on family for more support, the amount of conflict between adult children can increase.
Dealing with aging parents can rekindle sibling rivalries that may have been dormant for decades. This discord can and does tear families apart. The sad consequence is that the uninvolved sibling misses the opportunity to have a meaningful relationship and positive memories with their parents.
Conflict Between Siblings
Family dynamics are infinitely complex. There are, however, two consistent themes that run through most sibling disputes. These are parent’s care and injustice and, of course, inheritance.
Parent’s care and Injustice
There is a consistent theme in most family caregiving situations. There is usually one sibling or family member that shoulders most of the care for the parents. It may be due to distance, it may be due to cultural expectations, but, there are siblings that “are off the hook” when providing care for the aging parents. There is often and expectation that the family caregiver do everything. There comes a time when the primary caregiver needs and wants help from the uninvolved siblings, and the request is ignored to thought to be an exaggeration. Many uninvolved siblings do not understand the amount of work the primary caregiving doing. This causes resentment, anger and rage in the primary caregiver.
Waiting and Wanting the Inheritance
In the present deflated economy, there are more and more clashes over parents finances. There has been a decline in the average net worth by 40% since 2007. Many parents leave the financial peer of attorney to one sibling and the health care power of attorney to another sibling. If these siblings do not agree on what is necessary, things get very ugly. Uninvolved siblings may be preoccupied about saving money for their inheritance. The primary family caregiver may be trying to get much needed help in the home, pay for new medications etc. It is not unusual for the uninvolved sibling to think the caregiving sibling is spending to much on care. It is not unheard of, for the uninvolved sibling to accuse the caregiving sibling of theft and money mismanagement. Family dynamics may be tense, but, when one sibling feels as if they are burdened with providing care and the uninvolved sibling feels money is being utilized inappropriately, it leads to unnecessary accusations and social service involvement. There are things a family caregiver can do to protect themselves from the uninvolved and greedy sibling. Trust me, on my senior caregiving forum, we hear stories that will make your hair curl.
Tips for Improving Communication with Your Siblings ( and how to protect yourself)
There is no easy answers to settling a dispute between siblings. It is however in the best interest of all involved to maintain good communications. There are many things siblings can do to protect themselves and their parents from lawsuits and involvement of social services.
Start with The Family Meeting
This is a great way to identify each sibling’s role and obligations. This is a way to establish a process for future plans and how those will be determined. It is a time to look into Medicaid Asset Protection to learn what can be done to spend down for Medicaid if placement into a long term care facility is in the future.
Develop a Family Caregiver Contract To make everyone happy, a family caregiver contract protects the caregiving sibling from wrongful accusations. It also gives the uninvolved sibling a clear understanding of the expectations of the role the caregiving sibling. It is important that the caregiving sibling treat this position as a job and expect the uninvolved sibling as the employer. This means having expectations of weekly time off and coverage for vacation time. Caregiver stress kills.
The uninvolved sibling may not understand the stress “your caring” causes, but, you do have rights and it is important for them to understand that. See caregiver rights here It is important that the caregiving sibling keep meticulous records of everything that is spent for their parents are. Getting organized early will help avoid many disputes. It will also allow for the caregiving sibling not to get caught “off guard” and unprepared.
Utilize Outside Mediation
A geriatric care manager or elder care consultant works directly with families as they plan a parent’s care. Their involvement can defuse many disputes between siblings. This can be done via Skype or conference calls.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the only person we can change is ourselves. No matter how much we try to reason with a disagreeable sibling, we may not succeed. While advocating for what’s best for your parents, it’s wise to “let go” of anger or resentment towards a sibling who has been hurtful or unhelpful, and to strive for the inner peace that comes from acceptance and forgiveness. Do not allow the uninvolved sibling to have power you and be consumed with anger.
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