“Mom always liked you best!” went the old Smothers Brothers comedy routine.
Sibling rivalries. Dating back to the story of Cain and Abel, they are deeply woven into the tapestry of human interaction. Most fervent in early years — children vying for the love and attention of a parent — they tend to fade as siblings carve out their niches in adulthood. But later, as aging parents begin to need care, sibling rivalries can unexpectedly resurface — coloring decisions about care and finances and sometimes straining even the strongest of sibling bonds.
Recognizing potential triggers and addressing them head-on will go a long way towards not only ensuring your parents’ physical and emotional well-being but also preserving (if not strengthening) your relationship with your siblings. Here are some to look out for:
The “Go To” Person
It is not uncommon for one sibling to assume a predominant role in the family. Whether it’s the responsible eldest or the pampered youngest, these roles can persist into adulthood and magnify during times of family stress. But when one person assumes all responsibilities, either willingly or by default, it’s a ticking timebomb for resentment.
Proximity often dictates responsibility. Take Naomi, a corporate attorney, mother of 4 and savta of 2. Her mother, age 92, widowed, lives close to her in Jerusalem with a live-in caregiver. Naomi’s two siblings both live in the US, making Naomi her mother’s primary caregiver – a task she takes on with love. Naomi visits her mother frequently, takes her to doctor appointments, oversees management of her home and supervises her mother’s caregiver. It’s a lot. More than her siblings realize and try as she might, Naomi struggles to suppress a growing resentment that her siblings aren’t doing more…
Financial decisions are always tricky, more so when decisions about a parent’s care are involved. One sibling seeks the best care for his parents, no matter the cost; another feels that they should stay within the Israeli system of socialized medical care and subsidized home care. Who sets the budget? Who foots the bill? Money matters, unless approached with transparency and empathy, can tear families apart.