You may not have much in common with your siblings now that you're grown. But there's still one thing you share: your mom and dad. A new local program - the 50-50 Rule - offers strategies for overcoming sibling differences to help families provide the best care for elderly parents.
"Any Central Susquehanna River Valley family that has cared for a senior loved one knows that problems working with siblings can lead to family strife," said Joe DeLauter, owner of the local Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg. "Making decisions together, dividing the workload and teamwork are the keys to overcoming family conflict."
The 50-50 Rule refers to the average age when siblings are caring for their parents as well as the need for brothers and sisters to share in the plans for care 50-50.
Research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network reveals that an inability to work together often leads to one sibling becoming responsible for the bulk of caregiving in 43 percent of families. And that can result in the deterioration of relationships with brothers and sisters.
"If you're 50, have siblings and are assisting with the care of seniors, it's time to develop a plan," DeLauter said. "This program can help."
At the core of the 50-50 Rule public education program is a family relationship and communication guide of real-life situations that features practical advice from sibling relationships expert Dr. Ingrid Connidis from the University of Western Ontario.
"Like all relationships, siblings have a history," Connidis noted. "Whatever happened in the past influences what happens in the present. Regardless of their circumstances, most siblings do feel a responsibility to care for parents that is built from love. And that's a good place to start - optimistically and assuming the best."
For more information about this free guide and other resources call 522-6533 or visit www.solvingfamilyconflict.com.
Research reveals birth order role in caregiving
"Mom always liked you best." It was a popular line from the 1960s comedy duo the "Smothers Brothers."
The truth is, birth order and parental preferences do impact caregiving situations in families with multiple siblings. Research conducted by Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer found that mothers ages 65 to 75 in the Boston area were perfectly willing to name favorites among their children.
Pillemer noted that parental favoritism is part of the family landscape, with mothers often expressing preferences and identifying one to whom they feel the most emotionally close and one with whom they have the most conflict.
So who did most mothers pick to care for them when they needed help? It often was the one the mother felt emotionally closest to and who she thinks is most similar, who shares her attitudes and values.
And she is the one who has provided support and help for her mother in the past.
And that person, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, was often the youngest. In fact, 64 percent of youngest siblings are primary caregivers compared with 57 percent of oldest siblings and 49 percent of middle siblings.
Furthermore, 43 percent of youngest children say they have the closest relationship with their parents, while 70 percent of oldest children describe themselves as the responsible ones and 40 percent of middle children as the peacemakers of the family.
Sibling relationships expert Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., of the University of Western Ontario, who worked with the Home Instead Senior Care network on the organization's 50-50 Rule public education program for sibling caregivers, explained that the youngest caregiver preference may tie into geography.
"The family caregiver may be the one who lives the closest to the parent. And, in many cases, that may be the youngest. Because the youngest children know more of their parents' recent history, they may be the logical caregivers for that reason as well."
Top 5 sibling
Family caregiving can be stressful under any circumstances. But certain situations are hot button triggers.
These events can make the life of caregiving siblings more difficult and lead to family conflict.
The 50-50 Rule public education program, developed by the Home Instead Senior Care network, can help address these hot-button issues.
1. Illness: A senior loved one who becomes ill or faces declining health can leave a family facing all sorts of potentially difficult issues. Who provides the additional care? Is there a team approach or does one sibling bear the brunt of the caregiving? Family members' differing opinions and the changing needs of a senior can exacerbate the situation.
2. Money: Money matters often complicate life for seniors as well as their adult children. The recent recession left many older adults depleted of their savings while others may be outliving their nest eggs. Families can be forced to make tough caregiving decisions when their loved ones' finances factor into the equation.
3. Inheritance: While some families contend with a lack of funds to provide care for their loved ones, others have the temptation of a family inheritance influencing their decisions. If one sibling is encouraging a parent to spend the siblings' inheritance and another is coaxing that parent to save the money, trouble is sure to ensue.
4. Distance: While absence may make the heart grow fonder, it certainly doesn't make life easier for a family caregiver.
The siblings who live in the same town or city as their parents may be stuck with most of the caregiver work. According to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior network, one sibling is responsible for the bulk of the care of Mom and Dad in 43 percent of families. Siblings who live far away can feel left out or, if they do speak up, viewed as intruders by the primary family caregiver.
5. Stress: Life is stressful and family caregiving oftentimes makes it more so.
Adult caregivers who have started a new job, are raising children or caring for their own spouse can soon become overwhelmed when elderly family members need help. Those who are bearing the brunt of caregiving may resent siblings who are unable or unwilling to help.
In fact, 46 percent of caregivers who say their sibling relationships have deteriorated say their brothers and sisters are unwilling to help, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network.
Go to www.caregiverstress.com for more information.