Since I started working on my book, They’re Your Parents, Too!, people I barely know have approached me with questions. Some, whose parents are still fairly independent, were looking worriedly toward the future. “I have two sisters,” one woman told me, “and we get along. But I can already see there might be trouble ahead. What can I do?”
I have two short answers to this enormously complicated question. The first, of course, is to read my book. If know what’s coming, you’ll be better prepared and less likely be ambushed by your own reactions or those of your siblings when one or more of you is caring for aging parents. The second suggestion: start talking to some geriatric care managers now. Even if you don’t hire one immediately, you can line up the right person, and you’ll be ready.
I have been so impressed by the geriatric care managers I’ve met while researching my book. They bring their expertise—medical, administrative, psychological—to guide families through what can feel like a nightmare, especially if people wait until they’re in crisis. But they not only help find resources for the family caregiver. They also act as leader, buffer and communicator between siblings; they can help short-circuit the distortions, fears and resentments that so often reemerge around care for elderly parents. I know geriatric care managers who will even write emails for siblings to send to each other when they can’t say how Mom is doing without implying their siblings are somehow at fault.
Of course, geriatric care managers are not miracle-workers. They cannot make the lame run, or make the sibling Lion lie down with her Lamb of a brother. But they can steer families through this life-changing passage, maximizing the chances of good care for elderly parents and easing the destructive potential of sibling conflict. (And no, this is not a paid announcement, just the enthusiastic endorsement of a writer who’s learned what helps not only the family caregiver but the whole family.