Over a lifetime, the longest relationship typically is not with parents, partners or children, but with siblings. Research focused on these family ties identifies five types of sibling relationships: the intimate, the congenial, the loyal, the apathetic and the hostile.” But when a sibling suffers from a mental illness, the relationship can fall outside those norms. Indeed, the Alliance on Mental Illness noted:
She carried me when I was tired. She protected me when other kids were picking on me. She introduced me to new experiences and music, from dancing to the Beatles in 1964 in our West Lafayette, Ind., living room to my first Grateful Dead concert in 1968 — where she lifted me to the stage so I could dance with the band — to the music of Keith Jarrett in 1982.
Whether you've had a lifelong sibling rivalry or been the best of friends, sibling relationships can be very difficult to navigate when caring for an aging parent . I am in contact with many family caregivers, and I often hear about conflict between siblings around caregiving decisions and responsibilities. Some are at such odds that they either don't communicate or have a great deal of trouble doing so. Others say that a simple expression of appreciation would go a long way in easing the sibling tension.
Editor's note: The following is a guest post by Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D., who specializes in helping families cope with serious and chronic medical illness.
As much as you may love your sibling(s), issues involving your aging parents often lead to arguments -- and even sometimes serious altercations within the family. Check out AARP's article on a new form of family problem-solving, elder mediation, that helps siblings see eye to eye when trying to figure out what's best for their parents:
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