Sibling Conflict Over Aging Parents

By | November 8, 2013

As a nurse, I knew that sibling conflict was common when the time came to care for aging and ailing parents. But I didn’t dream it would happen to my sister and me. When it did, and when common ground for communicating was nowhere to be found, I suggested to my sister that we go to counseling to work things out through a third party mediator. What I didn’t know that the AARP blog addressed in a July, 2013 post is that there are actually mediators specifically for siblings bickering over how they are going to handle and share the care for their aging parents. They are called elder mediators.

old couple on beach for bookMany issues can come up between and among siblings regarding their aging parents. Some may include their living arrangements and safety, medical decisions, who  the primary caregiver is, and of course, money. Each sibling’s relationship with their parents may play a role in how involved they do or don’t wish to be, as may the distance they each live from their parents. One sibling may have an expectation of another that is unfortunately not out on the table, or even realistic. Finally, past resentments, conscious or unconscious, may rear their ugly head at this most inopportune time.

Communication with each other is vital. In our case, we didn’t have great communication skills for solving conflict together. Emotions ran high. That is where I believe a mediator can be worth her/his weight in gold. Elder mediators “help families make decisions in the parents’ best interest, trying to replace vitriol with reason and preserve sibling relationships” according to the July 31, 2013 AARP post. I encourage you to visit the AARP blog to read their full post on the topic of elder mediators for siblings in conflict.

Sadly, my own father died with my sister and I still in conflict. It breaks my heart that he did. I talk more about my own sibling fall out and others share theirs in my 2013 book, Final Years Stories of Parent Care, Loss and Lives Changed. To avoid that happening to you if you are in a sibling conflict situation while caring for your aging parents, I hope you will consider checking out


2 thoughts on “Sibling Conflict Over Aging Parents

  1. Ingrid Hooker

    Thank you for this initial insight. With my Mom at 85, the coming years are a large concern….especially
    being so far away from her. And, addressing sibling rivalry & old wounds is so needed. I will read your suggested articles. I truly look forward to reading your book! Ingrid

    1. Dawn Kairns

      Thanks, Ingrid for sharing your thoughts. Being far away IS one of the hardest parts, I think. It was for me. You just do the best you can. Sometimes with those old sibling wounds one sibling may not even know what the other one is harboring. I think having a way to communicate honestly and openly with each other ahead of time is so huge. It would have helped my sister and me greatly. But sometimes it takes a crisis to create a huge upheaval; then humpty-dumpty sort of goes back together again in an entirely new way. That’s what happened for us.
      And I will get my book out in paperback in a couple of months, I promise. For now, it’s just on Kindle. Take good care.

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