The 50-50 RuleSM: Family Feud

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When Families Battle Over Caregiving, Elderly Parents May Lose
Submitted by Home Instead Senior Care

Family caregiving doesn’t typically run smoothly when brothers and sisters caring for seniors can’t agree. Three key factors, more than any others, will influence whether relationships between the adult children will deteriorate, and whether the quality of care to the parent will be compromised, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care® network.  Those key factors are the adult children’s ability to make important decisions together; their ability to divide the caregiving workload; and their level of teamwork.
To assist adult siblings in tackling the caregiving issues peacefully and productively, the Home Instead Senior Care network is introducing a local education program for sibling caregivers called The 50-50 RuleSM. The 50-50 RuleSM refers to the average age (50) when siblings are caring for their parents, and also to the need for brothers and sisters to share in the plans for the care on a 50-50 basis. The Family Feud excerpt here addresses some of the reasons that teamwork may be so difficult for siblings.
“On a local level, we are very excited to be able to offer this series in our community,” said Jena Hare, Co-Owner and General Manager of Home Instead Senior Care in Salisbury and Concord. “We see firsthand how very difficult and emotional care decisions can be for the family. We witness many situations in which negative relationships and clashing personalities between siblings really threaten to interfere with the senior getting the care that they need.”
Tabitha Hall, Client Care Coordinator added, “It is important to communicate any potential problems with siblings before a crisis occurs with mom or dad. Then when an issue regarding an aging parent arises; siblings can work together to ensure that their loved ones are taken care of. Caring for a mom or dad can be very stressful, but resolving issues before hand can help make the decision making process a lot easier when the time comes.”
“My impression is that parents do end up getting help when their children disagree, but I think the more common problem is that it’s hard on elderly parents to know their children are in conflict,” said Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., sibling relationships expert from the University of Western Ontario. “I think for most it’s bad enough they already need the help of their children, but if their situation is causing conflict it’s especially tough,” said Connidis, who worked with the Home Instead Senior Care network on the 50-50 RuleSM program.
According to the website, family feuds often revolve around the following areas:
Roles and rivalries dating back to childhood. Mature adults often find that they’re back in the sandbox when their family gets together. This tendency can grow even more pronounced under the strain of caregiving.
Disagreements over an elder’s condition and capabilities. It’s common for family members to have very different ideas about what’s wrong with a loved one and what should be done about it. You may be convinced that your family member is no longer capable of driving, while your brothers argue that he needs to maintain his independence.
Disagreements over financial matters, estate planning, family inheritance and other practical issues. How to pay for a family member’s care is often a huge cause of tension. Financial concerns can influence decisions about where the person should live, whether or not a particular medical intervention is needed, and whether he can afford a housekeeper. These conflicts are often fueled by ongoing resentment over income disparities and perceived inequities in the distribution of the family estate.
Burden of care. Experts say the most common source of discord among family members occurs when the burden of caring for an elder isn’t distributed equally. Home Instead Senior Care research reveals that in 43 percent of U.S. families, one sibling has the responsibility for providing most or all of the care for Mom or Dad. “Usually one of the adult children in the family takes on most of the caregiving tasks,” says Donna Schempp, program director at the Family Caregivers Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that provides information and support to caregivers.
Engaging parents in caregiving issues is important, Dr. Connidis said, and so are family meetings that involve a third party if necessary. A third-party resource, particularly a professional such as a doctor or geriatric care manager, can provide an impartial voice of reason. “Talking before a crisis is best,” she said. “Talk to one another about perceptions of what happens if your senior needs help, how available you would be, and the options that you and your family would consider.”
Those who would like further information about The 50-50 RuleSM or other aging-related topics will find the following resources beneficial. Community groups that would like an educator to speak on these topics may contact Home Instead Senior Care at 704-636-2010 and speak to Crystal Dickerson, Community Service Representative.
The 50-50 RuleSM (
The 40-70 Rule® ( (
Home Instead Senior Care ( (
Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions ( (also available in all Rowan County Public Libraries)