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Sibling Conflict is a Killer

Brian Herd has written a fabulous piece this week about sibling conflict over elderly parents.

While such conflict will not normally result in a death in the family, there will be a death of the family.

High need, dependant parents can expose a combination of terminal conditions in siblings – arrogance, self-righteousness, repressed enmities and jealousies, machinations, manipulations and the, ‘I know what’s best’ syndrome. Together, they plant the seeds of family ruination. It leaves mum and dad in desolate despair, implodes sibling relationships, infects even the relationships between nephews and nieces and ultimately, the indignity of the intrusion of benevolent bureaucrats into the family’s life.

Certainly, the best decision-maker for an older person is the person themselves. We have all witnessed an older person’s life being taken over by dominant relatives in an attempt to make it easier, better, safer, quicker, for all concerned (usually the family not the older person) and as Nurses, we endeavour to advocate on behalf of the client.

If the client is cognitively aware then we identify that to the family and encourage the older person to be involved in the conversation – too many times we might hear “I’m just trying to do what is best for mum” but mum has told us she is very upset with what is happening and feels railroaded into the process.

It may take a number of meetings, and the negotiating skills of a diplomat, but we aim to empower the older person.

As Brian identifies the problem arises when there is an issue with cognition – someone needs to make the decisions for the older person and that is where the cracks in the family dynamics can begin to show. Brian identifies that the problem is accentuated when there is no Enduring Power of Attorney.

Competition arises between family members as to who will be the decision-makers and we as Nurses can get caught up in the family dynamics. Have you ever found yourself in the situation when one family member will request a certain care strategy for a parent and then another family member will come to you and want the exact opposite? Or you’ll find yourself ringing a family member to discuss a client’s requirements and then be stopped in the corridor the next day by a different family member and asked why you hadn’t rung them?

The lack of an identified decision-maker can cause problems for the staff caring for the client but also destroy family relationships. If a decision cannot be made then a guardian may be appointed which leads to further problems within the family dynamic. As Brian identified it can be the death of the family relationship.

To read Brian’s full article click here>>