Is using a third party a good way to resolve sibling conflicts over caregiving?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
Pray asked...

My long time friend mother has demensia. Her older sister takes care of her mom. Though her mom is probably in the moderaate stage she needs plently of help including someone being with her at all times. The caregiven seems to get very fusterated and at times shows anger towards her mother. My friend has suggest different solutions,ie, putting her mom in rest home, even if only for a short time, or hiring someone to come help her. Nothing that is suggested is acceptable. I have adviced my friend to try and get a third person, indepentant from the family, to come and annolize the situation. Thus giving them guidance on to what needs to be done. She is afraid if she goes behind her sisters back to try and get help for her(the caregiver) and her mom it will cause more problem within the family. I have told her then if this is not possible close your eyes to the situation and continue to live your life as if nothing is happening, if this makes you feel better. I told her, her concern should be the safety of her mom and well being of her sister. Do you think I have given the correct advice? Thank you~

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Using a third party to resolve sibling conflict is often a good idea. Geriatric care managers can knowledgeably assess the situation and offer options.

Yet, your friend's fear of going behind her sister's back to find a neutral third party is reasonable.

First, share with your friend, that when a primary (hands-on caregiver) feels frustrated and overwhelmed, the last thing s/he needs to hear, are suggestions for caregiving from a not-as-involved family member. On the other hand, if your friend's sister is getting angry, your mother's safety becomes a more pressing issue.

There may be different reasons why your friend's sister is feeling frustrated and overwhelmed in her role as caregiver for your mom with moderate dementia. She may feel trapped by feelings of indebtedness to her mom or perceive the need to honor family obligations. She could even be short on cash and need to share part of Mom's retirement benefits to survive. Whatever her reasons, she is struggling.

Although, your friend's suggestions such as in-home or even residential care are worthwhile options, they are better received if she were also spending time with her mother (if this is possible). Her sister will be more accepting of advice that comes from personal experience. An adult day care center can also provide her sister with respite during the day while giving her the opportunity to attend support group. Being able to discuss caregiving issues with others who walk the same road will uplift her.

In a seemingly "Catch 22" situation like this, the best option is for your friend to be hands-on involved and build her sister's confidence that she'll be by her side to help. Also, she can start calling regularly to get updates. She can ask questions and listen. This acts as a means of much-needed support in allowing her sister to vent. Over time, her sister will be more receptive to her ideas.

In Summary

Your advice to your long-time friend comes from the heart of a caring friend of a concerned sister whose older sister is experiencing periods of difficulty caring for her mom. It will take patience and involvement by your friend to ensure her mom's safety and to preserve her older sister's sanity.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

For the most part the above answers are accurate. However, questions you need to ask, who has legal guardianship, who has Power of Attorney? Then go from there.

Both my brother and I have had DPOA over mom. She has dementia and continues to live in her own home. My brother has lived with mom over 30 years. Long story, short, we just recently went to court. My brother now has Legal Guardianship of mom and there is now a Court Conservator for her finances. When mom was well, she had put me on as joint and my brother was angry. Using his DPOA was excessive spending. He harrassed, badgered, accusations of ME stealing and upsetting mom. Because of his so-called residency he prevented me from visiting with her. He now badgers the Conservator for money. My life is so much more peaceful now. I had said my good-byes to mom years ago.
A third party involvement is a nice suggestion if family is open to it. My lawyer said her experience with 3rd parties work for a little while only to be back in court for Guardianship and Conservatorship. My suggestion is to find a support group and take your friend with you. I found this helps make decision making easier to deal with. Blessings to all.....