The deepest pain many elderly parents feel cannot be fixed by doctors or lawyers. It’s created by their own children.
- Parents’ fierce desire to cling to their independence and autonomy
- Sibling rivalry that shows up as parents need more help and role reversal kicks in
Parents who love their children can be blindsided by kids who seem to be trying to take over their lives as they get older:
- Telling a parent where they have to live and with whom can feel like a frontal attack on the parent’s autonomy.
- Suggesting what should be provided in a parent’s will and who should be the personal representative can seem like a grab for power.
- A sense of entitlement that comes mighty close to assuming the parent’s money is already theirs to divide: “If you pay for a grandson’s tuition, then you’re taking money away from me,” complained a childless daughter.
- Naming an adult child as health care power of attorney or a general power of attorney can raise the ugly head of jealousy in an unnamed sibling, even if the reason for the choice is obvious (say, the child who is a doctor gets the health care power).
The Flip Side
But there’s a flip side to this coin: The children may be legitimately worried about their parent’s safety in a house with stairs, or one on a hill with a drive that ices over in winter. Or maybe the parent is a hoarder, and the home has become a fire hazard.
Suspicions arise if a child who lives close to, or even with, the parent refuses to share medical information with the others. For example, a parent falls and is hospitalized for tests, and the child in the home does not notify the others for a few days or refuses to explain how it happened. This raises suspicions of parental abuse and neglect. But it could be the parent who wants to keep the secret.
Another example: a son, whose only work is taking care of his remaining parent lives with his mom in her home and gets a new car. Is he stealing money from Mom?
The mom in our story may have purchased the car for her son as a way of paying a small portion of what he was saving her by his care. He may have earned it. Aging in place is a far better option for many seniors than assisted living. But the other siblings need to know about the new car.
Transparency goes a long way toward preventing sibling rivalry, jealousy, and arrogant assumptions that can actually impede a parent’s health.
A parent (assuming no dementia) is best suited to convening a family meeting to explain her thinking, her health status, and as much of her financial information as she wishes to share. She might list her needs and wishes and ask for help, giving a chance for any kids who’ve felt left out to be included even if they live in another area. (They might offer to take her on a vacation, or come for two weeks to spell the care-giving sibling.)
Above all, both kids and parents should remember that IT’S STILL THE PARENT’S MONEY, and if they want to give it to a church or take an around-the-world-cruise, THEY CAN!
Comments from Social Media
Great advice for siblings who need another perspective and some cooperation.”
Marcia Jarrell, Owner/Director, SarahCare Lake Boone Trail Adult Day Care Center
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.