September 27, 2020
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What’s yours is mine

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
August 7, 2020

Family inheritances and mementoes generate powerful emotional and financial attachments. What do you do when you and your siblings disagree on the family legacies? Check out this situation.

You've always admired your mother's sapphire brooch, which she promised you several years ago. Likewise, your brother was counting on dad's expensive chain saw. But when your parents passed away, your youngest brother and his wife—who live in the same town—took it all. What do you do?

The high ground is to appreciate that your memories are the most important reminder of your mother and your relationship with her. If you can calmly talk to your brother and sister-in-law, try it. "You have no way of knowing this, but a year ago mom promised me her sapphire brooch. You have this item of mom's (assuming that the sister-in-law has some other possession of your mother's). It would mean a lot to me to have the brooch and comply with mom's wishes." Hope for the best and take comfort that you tried and brought the issue to the forefront. That way the topic won't fester and you don't have to wonder. Encourage your brother to use a similar tactic regarding the chain saw.

If your sister-in-law won't part with the brooch, make the best of it. Try not to let it break up your relationship with your brother. Ask if you could borrow the pin to wear on special occasions. Also, take the pin to a professional photographer and have a close-up shot taken of the brooch. Frame the photo and display it in a prominent place in your home. If you have a photo of your mother wearing the pin, display that in the same place. It won't be the same as owning or wearing the pin, but at least you'll have a remembrance of the memento.  There are times getting creative to find a solution is the only way both parties feel successful and the long term relationship isn’t broken down beyond repair.

Communication breakdowns can make a bad caregiving situation worse. If you’re not talking with your siblings, mom and dad may be the ones to suffer. According to research, the problem is a common one.

What if you and your siblings haven’t been on speaking terms for years, but mom and dad now need help. How do you get the ball rolling? It might help you to have a more thorough grasp of your parent’s situation. If time allows, spend a few days with your mom and dad and try to develop a better understanding of what’s going on.

Talk with your parents face-to-face. Tell them you just want to help and ask them to be honest with you about their needs. Talk to their doctors, which you can do from a distance if you are not able to visit.

Make a list of all of your concerns and share them with your parents’ medical professionals. Also discuss the situation with any close friends who might have knowledge of your parents’ health issues and living arrangements.

Sometimes, if one parent is healthy enough, that person may still be calling the shots about care for the couple. If your dad is the primary caregiver, try to engage him in conversation. Ask him what would be helpful to him. Sometimes the primary caregiver Just needs emotional support.

You may find that unequal involvement among your siblings has to do with a parent. If a parent is contacting some of his children and not others, and gets along better with those siblings, then that situation will affect the big picture. Sometimes involving a third party is quite helpful in emotionally charged situations. A geriatric care manager, for instance, has seen these issues multiple times and can let families know that their situation is not unique.  If you are looking for a referral to one may I suggest Legacy Concierge Service. They can be reached at 707.732.4527.

When you have a clear understanding of the situation, schedule a meeting or telephone conference with your siblings. Discuss with them the importance of putting aside differences for the care of your parents.


Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website,  to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.