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We Are Family

April 25, 2012

April 25, 2012

We Are Family


This blog started off talking about your parents and how you can interact with them to enhance your relationship and establish trust by showing love, concern, and connection.  In some families that’s the circle. Other families involve additional siblings. Then there are the extended families with step-siblings and/or half-siblings. Family relationships can get complicated, but when dealing with aging parents the dynamics need to be simplified into loving, trusting, and collaborative relationships.

In order to maintain the highest level of trust among siblings of aging parents it is important they work together to understand the goals, remain informed, participate in discussions, and be engaged in the decision-making process.

Distance and age disparities are no longer a barrier to communication. Technology enables communication virtually anywhere in the world. Therapists, counselors, and advocates can assist in facilitating conversations across age gaps and provide support to those lacking communication with extended family members.

An essential first step in building relationships with siblings (natural or blended) is to reach out  in an effort to encourage dialogue. Ease into this slowly and with care. Get to know them a little or reconnect before addressing the issues of aging parents. Spend a few phone calls, or Facebook sessions, catching up on news of their careers, children, hobbies, or travels. Let them know that you have an interest in them as individuals.

As the relationship with siblings gels get to know how they feel as part of the family. Are they involved with your joint parents? Are they on good terms with the other siblings? See if they are willing to be present at a family celebration or reunion. The obvious purpose is to build some common ground, and again, some trust and shared focus.

Not all families need to worry about building relationships between the siblings. For those lucky families who have strong ties and good communication, or close proximity, this is a no-brainer. They’ve probably pulled together to bring in the harvest, work in the family business, or planned family gatherings for years. But for families who have been split apart by distance or antagonism building these bridges is essential.

All of this is also predicated on the premise that there is no urgency to the relationship building. If the parents are in moderate to good health there is time to build these relationships and form a well-planned outline on how you will approach your parents about aging issues.

On the other hand, if a crisis has occurred then you may need to just make phone calls and pray hard that everyone will work together to come up with viable solutions to the issues at hand. Communicating to everyone that the primary focus is on the health, welfare, and autonomy of the parents is of utmost importance. Petty differences and old rivalries have no place during a crisis.

Do you have a story or some tips on how your family dealt with the issue discussed here?

Feel free to contact me, post a comment, or share a story. I appreciate your interaction!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2012 3:00 pm

    My oldest brother died of lung cancer on February 15, 2009. My other brother is totally estranged and has been so for over ten years. He and his wife refuse to have any contact with my Mom because they blame her for my father’s sins. This presents problems. My nephew and one of my nieces are supportive, but they are not able to take on much caregiving because they have families and busy lives. My son also loves his grandmother dearly, but he is an active duty US Marine stationed in Okinawa at present.

    I am much on my own in caring for my Mom. I wish I could bridge the gap with my remaining brother, but I have made repeated efforts with no success. I feel he and his wife are doing a great disservice to my Mom and myself. I could really use support and aid. I have my own health issues and worry that at some point I might be incapacitated and unable to care for my Mom as she deserves. God willing I will stay healthy.

    Thank you for your post. I hope my comment is suitable.

    Jo Ann

    • April 28, 2012 3:35 pm

      As unfair as it is that the bulk of the care falls on your shoulders and the family isn’t involved we can only deal with the situations that are staring us in the face–as in “It is, what it is!” That being said, your situation with your estranged brother is very sad. Unfortunately, we can only make the effort to mend situations, but cannot force the other person to comply. I have a similar situation in that I have a brother who hasn’t spoken to me in over 20 years over a stupid disagreement. When my mother died in 2006 I did not attend the funeral due to not wanting to cause friction by my presence in a place he would be. I have tried for many years to mend the situation–he hangs up the phone or is otherwise unpleasant and I knew there would be a scene from him if I went to the funeral. I didn’t have to deal with his nastiness, but he fought my other brother and my sister on every subject that came up and even challenged their right to make decisions as executors of the estate. Very sad.

      Hang in there and just give your mom the most love and best care you possibly can while also making sure your needs are met. Do not sacrifice yourself for the sake of another. It is never good for either party. Live your life with an eye to outside experiences as well as enriching experiences with your mother.


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