Some important points for aging professionals, like geriatric care managers , to consider when working with midlife siblings in an aging family crisis, is how the adult siblings seem to be functioning. If there is one adult sibling who is the family caregiver, what is her or his attitude toward aging and an older person’s particular illness (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease)? If the adult sibling caregiver has the attitude that older people are supposed to become demented, then the older person’s behavior will not be seen as a problem to be considered. What motivates the adult sibling and the aging family to care? If the adult sibling caregiver has a full load with a job, marriage, and children, he or she may not be looking for additional problems and deny the problem. How do the adult siblings work as a sibling team? Do the adult sibling members address problems together, or do problems split them apart? Is there domination from a single adult sibling member? Is abuse and threats, implied or real, used to control adult siblings? What do the adult siblings value? Do some value one thing, like keeping an aging parent at home and other believe in placement like a CCRC? Will the family be receptive to your aging professional suggestions?
If the family is receptive to suggestions, you, as an aging professional, can help improve how an adult sibling communicates by modeling the following communication techniques:
l Do not interrupt adult sibling until they have finished speaking.
l Show each adult sibling that he or she has value in the family.
l Show each adult sibling that his or her views are valid.
l Acknowledge to each adult sibling that his or her experience of a situation is valid.
l Encourage family adult siblings to work together to make the load easier for all to bear.
l Realize that adult siblings will make mistakes and that mistakes are acceptable as long as the midlife sibling learns from them.
l Remind adult siblings that it is acceptable for one member to express that he or she has reached their limit of time, emotion or stress.
l Encourage adult sublings to ask each other for help.
l Allow adult siblings to decide whether they can be helpful.
Do you have midlife sibling communication problems? Is one sibling not speaking to another? Is a sibling cut from the rest of the family? Do you just have trouble getting through to the sister who always bossed you around as a kid? Is the root a much deeper trail to a darker part of your childhood?
One or more brothers or sisters may realize that his or her siblings have difficulty in communicating. They would like to change that dynamic and work to become a more friendly, loving team in midlife and through the second half of their life. Consider a family meeting on midlife sibling communication.