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Sibling Conflict Over Care of Elderly Parents: UK Guide

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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It’s natural for children to want their parents to reside happily, healthily and independently in their own homes for as long as possible. But it’s not always clear whether this is best for an older parent’s wellbeing. What makes this situation more difficult is that elderly people with dementia sometimes lack insight into their own situation, so they might reject care they urgently need. Even older people who don’t have dementia may still resist care because they, understandably, prefer to manage their household and health on their own.

For all of these reasons and more, sometimes children disagree about what’s best for an older parent’s welfare. For example, one child might feel their parent needs to move to a care home for their own safety, while another might wish for their parent to remain cared for by family.

What can you do in this situation? In this article, we’ll discuss sibling conflict over care of elderly parents, UK law regarding older people with dementia, and more.

A key factor: mental capacity

When it comes to the welfare of an older person with dementia, the most important question is – does the older person have ‘mental capacity’?

Mental capacity is the ability to understand, assess and remember the information involved in a decision, and to communicate that decision to others. If an older person’s dementia or medical symptoms prevent them from doing at least one of these things, they do not have mental capacity.

It’s important to know whether an older person has mental capacity because the law includes provisions for the protection of people who don’t have mental capacity.

When an elderly parent has mental capacity

When there’s sibling conflict over care of elderly parents, UK law says that older people who do have mental capacity generally can’t be forced to do things against their wishes. If an older person with mental capacity is actively in danger, such as if their house is unfit for habitation, one of their children can contact their local council or the Court of Protection to try to get help. Otherwise, the best way for siblings to address conflicts over their parents’ care is to communicate and try to come to a consensus.

What can help the children of an elderly parent to reach agreements? We have some tips…

Bring in a trusted neutral party to manage a conversation

When an older parent’s wellbeing is the topic of disagreement, emotions can run high, making calm conversation difficult. It may help to bring in another person as a mediator. This might be a family counsellor, a religious or social group leader who is close to the family, or another, less involved relative. Care homes may also offer the opportunity for families to have meetings about their parent’s care.

Set expectations and state beliefs clearly

In many aspects of life, it’s helpful to discuss expectations clearly to ensure everyone is on the same page – and this applies even more to family conflicts over a parent’s care.

For example, one person might feel that each of their siblings ought to visit their older parent daily, and they might be angry when this is not done. Their siblings might then feel blindsided by this anger if they did not think visiting each day was expected or possible.

It’s best to discuss each person’s beliefs about what ought to be done and what is expected. That way, siblings can, ideally, create clear lists of what each of them has agreed to do. And if one sibling feels that they cannot visit daily because, for example, they are caring for their own young children, that person might suggest an alternative, like calling their parent on the phone or helping their parent in a different way.

Get a needs assessment from your council

If family members are debating how much or what care an older person needs, a needs assessment from the council is designed to answer just this question. What’s more, the needs assessment starts the process of obtaining care for an elderly person who needs it.

Create Lasting Powers of Attorney

If siblings disagree about a parent’s care while a parent has mental capacity, they are likely to disagree even more if a parent suffers severe dementia and is unable to make their own decisions. To avoid disagreements as much as possible, it’s best to ask a parent to create a Lasting Power of Attorney. This appoints one or more people to make decisions when the parent loses mental capacity, and it also sets out how decisions can be made.

Likewise, parents may wish to create an advance decision or living will about their medical treatment wishes.

When an elderly parent does not have mental capacity

If an older person does not have mental capacity and there is sibling conflict over care of elderly parents, UK law offers more help when the above steps aren’t sufficient.

The Court of Protection

The Court of Protection is specifically meant for helping protect people who don’t have mental capacity. People can apply to the Court of Protection for numerous reasons, including to become a deputy of an older person with dementia who did not create a Lasting Power of Attorney.

How technology can help

Many aspects of an older person’s care might be the subject of sibling conflict over care of elderly parents. UK local councils do provide input via a care assessment, but ultimately children of elderly parents have to come to agreements on their own.

However, a personal alarm for the elderly can be a simple and low-conflict choice for protecting an older person’s welfare, whether that person has help from carers or not. With nothing more than a talking pendant alarm or wrist alarm, family members can ensure that elderly parents won’t be without help if they need it.

For example, family members might worry that an older person is at risk of falling due to a variety of medical conditions ranging from arthritis to epilepsy. A fall detection alarm ensures that an older person who falls will never lie on the floor without help. That’s because the alarm detects the fall and calls for assistance all on its own, even if the wearer is unconscious.

What other alarms can help older people with various care needs? If you’d like to know more, get in touch with SureSafe on 0800 112 3201 to chat about which personal alarm might be right for your older parent. You can also reach out to us through our live chat or request a call back.

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