Caring for elderly harder than it used to be

Most of us were brought up with the fairytale notion of the perfectly happy family

As children, we dreamt of this, even if our family of origin was sometimes troubled

If you allowed yourself to daydream, you’d have imagined them happily reminiscing as mature adults about their perfect family and their close relationships with their siblings

Sadly, for most of us, it’s a rose-tinted view far removed from reality. Ask anyone who’s in the position of caring for an elderly parent whether this dream is the reality and you’re more than likely to hear the opposite

Research* in Feb 2009 found that one in five adults regularly provide care and assistance for elderly parents and many also support them financially. This is not unusual in itself: children have always cared for older parents, but the landscape is changing

People are living much longer, which means that an increasing number of them have dementia and need special care

For many, the burden of caring for parents with long-term problems often falls when they are still bringing up their own children and holding down a job

Increasingly they also have the problem of caring from a distance, as many siblings may have moved away from their hometown and only see their parents on high days and holidays

Many siblings will probably have lived separately for 30-plus years now with their own families, beliefs, values, attitudes and ways of doing things

The emotional issues between parent, child and other siblings are complex

Parents, or those in authoritative parental positions, bring us up and we learn our behaviour, thoughts and feelings from them

Like it or not, we’re inevitably conditioned by parents, teachers, older people, anyone who passes on their beliefs and code of conduct

When being critical or caring, we behave in the way we were taught and express those early values

As children, we respond reactively and emotionally to whatever is going on externally

At that stage in our lives, we have few internal resources, so we do the best we can. This might be to please our parents and be good, or to rebel and be naughty, or just be unable to think rationally

As we grow up and become adults, we develop our own independent way of thinking and we begin to determine our own actions based on received data. This part of ourselves is straightforward and non-emotional and helps us make clear informed objective decisions

When we communicate, it’s from one of these perspectives: Adult, Parent or Child. Our feelings and the circumstances determine which one we use, although at any time something can trigger a shift from one to another

Family matters raise strong emotions and in the main we operate from the non-rational part of our brain. We believe we are right and that our siblings are trying to prove they are better than us. These are very deep-seated emotions

In all families, there will be a pecking order among siblings. The natural ‘leaders’ are often the eldest, while the youngest is always seen as the baby and probably the one who was closest to the mother or father (which isn’t necessarily the same as having the best relationship)

It’s not unusual for a parent to fuel the arguments between children. It’s often the only power they still have left. It can be difficult for older people dealing with their own decline as their children start to take over. The parent is left feeling increasingly impotent and losing the central role in the family

How to deal with parent/sibling rivalries

  • Pre-empt the difficulties that can arise when a parent needs care is to think back to your childhood and remember the triggers for the tensions in any relationships. Once you can begin to understand what’s happening, there’s a real chance of change
  • Remember sibling relationships will go on well after your parents’ death. They are your link to your past
  • If we don’t deal with our differences while our parents are still alive, it makes it extremely hard to resolve later. It’s up to us to find a way through; our parents can’t be expected to do that for us
  • Accept that there’s been a power shift in the family. We have to let go of the fantasy that our ‘mummy and daddy’ will make things better for us. It’s time to grow up
  • Every one of us has had experience of having to make decisions with people with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye and yet negotiate some sort of agreement. But that’s usually in situations where we don’t have the same emotional connections.
  • Try to think about what is the best solution for your parent and other siblings from as rational a standpoint as possible
  • Look at the facts and the options to diffuse the emotion

* undertaken by ICM

We offer an expert care advice service

Grace Consulting provides affordable fee-based independent advice to help you choose the best care option to suit you and your relative’s needs and wishes. Our Care Advisers provide the knowledge and support you need to make the right decision for you and your family. is partnering with Grace Consulting, the UK’s leading provider of personalised independent care advice, who, for over 40 years, has specialised in finding the best possible care for older people. Please note this is not an Age Concern or Age UK service.

Call now on 01483 209626 to get the help and advice you need at our preferential discounted rates

Or fill in the form and we will contact you,

Keren Smedley




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