Dynamics between siblings are unique to each family and often very complicated. Sometimes siblings get along great. Sometimes lifelong conflicts exist and arranging care for a parent with dementia reignites past tensions. Other times just the stress of being a caregiver takes its toll on sibling relationships. Whatever the situation may be, navigating through these waters can sometimes be treacherous.
David, 50, and Chris, 46, had not been in touch for several years. The only time they spoke was when it pertained to their parents, who live together in their own home in Queens and both suffer from dementia. Despite little communication, the siblings are both involved in their parentsí care. If one sees the otherís car in the driveway, he keeps on driving. And vice versa. This has been going on for over a year.
During a recent visit David began to feel his parents needed additional help in the house. Surprisingly, Mom agreed. Dad was less easy to convince but after a while he admitted that a little help might not be such a bad thing. David called Chris and they decided to explore their options.
Chris called the 24-hour Helpline and a volunteer told him about a number of different options including housekeeping, personal care, and home attendant services. Chris said his parents have some money saved up and that heíd like to contact some agencies but didnít know where to start. The Helpline volunteer sent him an information packet along with the Chapterís Home Care Sources booklet to assist them in their search.
A few weeks later, the 24-hour Helpline received another call from Chris. He realized his parentsí savings would not last much longer if they had to pay privately for home care and had called his brother to discuss their options. David and Chris had a heated discussion that soon turned into an argument over which agency would provide the service and how many hours of help their parents would need each week. The call was referred to a Care Consultant who initially spoke with each sibling separately by telephone. After several calls with each, David and Chris agreed to a family meeting with the Care Consultant in the hopes of coming to some sort of agreement on a plan.
During the initial meeting, each sibling shared his perspective of the situation. There was little interaction between David and Chris during the meeting; each directed most of what he said to the Care Consultant. However, at the end of the meeting, they agreed to come back the following week. Their assignment for the next meeting was to each make a list of the types of help they felt their parents needed in order to remain safely at home for as long as possible. And they each agreed to speak with Mom and Dad to get their input as well.
David, Chris and the Care Consultant met several times over the next few weeks. David and Chris shared their lists. The Care Consultant encouraged them to speak to one another and soon they were communicating with one another directly and calmly. They eventually determined that four hours a day, three days a week would be a good beginning. And they agreed they would use Mom and Dadís money to pay for half of the cost and that they would split the remaining half.
David and Chris are still not speaking unless itís about Mom and Dad, but they were able to meet in the middle to ensure their parents get what they need and what they deserve.
Alzheimerís Association care consultants are here to assist you and your family when dealing with difficult situations. If you would like to meet with a care consultant, please call the Chapter at
646-744-2900 or our 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900. Care Consultation services are available at no charge. Caregivers featured in this series have agreed to share their stories. Names have been changed to protect their anonymity.
— Matt Kudish, MSW
Director, Helpline & Care Consultation