As a financial caregiver, it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed with all your new responsibilities. Not only are you managing your own life, now you’re forced to “parent the parent” as the saying goes.
When you’re in this situation with siblings, things tend to get even trickier. In a conversation with Jane Doe, a past financial caregiver to both her mother and mother-in-law, she addressed three key points to help others better navigate this situation.
Whether your family members get along well or not, making decisions and getting things done can be difficult. If you’re like Jane’s family, you get lost in conversation, veer off to other topics and forget about the task at hand. Other families may have more tension between siblings, causing arguments and emotional strain. As stated by Francine Russo in an article for Family Caregiver Alliance, “without realizing it, you may all be competing with each other as you did when you were kids”.
Which is why tip number one is: Have a mediator.
Having someone around during decision-making conversations that can act as a mediator can help keep everyone involved on track. This may need to be someone outside of the immediate family so that their emotions don’t contribute to the chaos. For Jane in the case of her mother, this mediator was her husband. He had just gone through a similar situation with his mother and in her opinion, he helped the group of siblings make decisions faster and more effectively.
Often, the family dynamics we learn as children can be hard to escape. Jane feels that it is very difficult to speak up around her siblings, for fear of overstepping or not being taken seriously.
This brings us to tip number two: work to overcome your childhood dynamics.
In Jane’s case, the role of “Little Sister” is engrained in the way she interacts with her siblings, and she feels like she has to let her older siblings take the lead. This would not necessarily be a big deal, except when it comes time to make decisions, the eldest sibling may not be ready or willing to take the reins. Likewise, if there is a disagreement between the siblings, the inability to speak up can lead to unjust resentment in the future.
In the article mentioned earlier, Francine says of siblings, “You may need to help them see that you can all adapt your roles to new times and who you are today.”
Finding how the pieces of your family puzzle fit together as adults is imperative to having pleasant relationships and effectively giving financial care.
Something that came as a surprise for Jane was how quickly the situation with her mother-in-law became dire after the family realized she needed help. Jane describes being “almost too late” by the time her family took action to gain control of her mother-in-law’s finances and well-being. Her mother-in-law could barely sign her name anymore.
Tip number three: have the uncomfortable conversations.
This one could be a lifesaver. Children of aging parents have to be able to talk to their parents, as well as their siblings when there is a need for help. Whether it is to say “Dad, you can’t see well enough to drive anymore.” or “Mom keeps forgetting her medicine and we have to step in.”
In the article The Stages Of Dementia, Healthline reports that dementia can progress at different speeds, depending on the type of dementia and other factors. However, it always entails “further mental decline as well as worsening physical capabilities once the disease progresses to the point of severe dementia.”
Once the minds of our loved ones have started to fail, it is a downhill slope. If the difficult conversations are not had, difficult situations will arise.
So if you are having difficulty navigating the dynamics of financial caregiving with siblings, remember to find yourself a mediator, break loose from those childhood roles, and have all the necessary conversations- no matter how uncomfortable they may be!