When a parent enters a phase in their life where they are facing issues relating to aging, there can be a major change in family dynamics. Siblings must come together to make decisions on how to best care for their parent, and this can put pressure on everyone involved.

Here we explore how and why these family dynamics change, and how to communicate effectively with family members to ensure that everyone is included and your parent gets the best care possible.

Bluebird CEO, Stuart Brunson, and Angela Rothrock, Regional Director, discussed this topic on our podcast, Senior Care Conversations. Listen to the episode here.

What Dynamics Change and Why

An aging parent can drastically change the dynamics of a family. Whether the family is close to each other or not, everyone is connected and wants the best for the aging parent. Everyone should rely on one another and openly discuss options in order to make sure the parent gets the best care. Even if both parents are still married, children often still play a large role in taking care of the aging parent.

The size of the family plays a role in how the dynamics change and how decisions are made. For example, if there is only one child in the family, they are making all of the decisions alongside the aging parent and they are mainly responsible for putting plans in place. If the family has multiple children, everyone has to come together to make joint decisions, along with working through who has what responsibilities.

One of the most obvious changes in dynamics that occurs is the role reversal between the parent and child. The aging parent is used to being independent and taking care of themselves along with their child, but now, they will have to rely on their child to take care of them. This can be a strange situation for both.

With siblings coming together to take care of their parent, old issues and siblings rivalries can often surface. These issues can be exacerbated by the stressful situation of taking care of an aging parent. In fact, around 40% of family caregivers experience significant family disputes.

Communicating with Siblings and Developing a Plan for Care

Communicating with family members and the aging parent is essential for developing a plan for care. Everyone should be involved in the process. With the changing family dynamics detailed above, this is sometimes easier said than done. To help this process go smoothly, here are a few tips.

  1. Develop an end-of-life plan. This is one of the most important actions to take, and the sooner the better. There is a misconception that this pertains to only people who are actively dying — this isn’t the case. In reality, these plans are for the last ten to twenty years of a person’s life. According to a survey by the Conversation Project, 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27% actually do it.
  2. Have open communication. Be sure to have clear communication with all family members involved. Set clear expectations and responsibilities for each person. The family dynamics are changing, so it’s important to have an open dialogue to talk through it. Start the conversation as early as possible.
  3. Don’t put everything on yourself. Your family is there to support the aging parent, so don’t put all of the responsibility on yourself. If you’re the only family member there to take care of them, be sure to utilize respite care to give yourself a break — you can’t take care of your parent if you haven’t taken care of yourself.
  4. Speak with professionals. Home care agencies have vast experience in this area, so if you have questions or need support, reach out to one. Often times, they can draw upon their experience from similar situations and help guide you and your family to the best options available.

Want to talk through your options and how you can give your loved one the best chance at living a healthy, independent life in their home? Contact us — we are dedicated to providing high quality, in-home care at an affordable price to families and individuals who expect the best.