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With Six Siblings, Who's In Charge?



"I come from a large family, having six siblings. My father is the remaining parent at age 83.

We’re all professionals and very competitive. We all played team sports and were pushed by our Dad to be our best. Most of us have excelled on our chosen paths.

When it comes to helping Dad make decisions, it’s kind of a free-for-all. There is no one clear leader and every decision is a bit of a battle. Everyone wants to have the last say and every conversation is difficult.

We’re not at the point where Dad’s going to need help with his activities of daily living. When that time does come, though, there will be at least three different opinions.

Is there any way to avoid so much conflict as we move forward? I don’t like being at odds with my family."



It sounds like you all want to be in charge of decision-making, and there’s conflict since not everyone can have their way.

A little bit of disagreement is not uncommon. It can actually be beneficial, because it helps us seek out the best solutions rather than going with the first option. You and your siblings are likely very good at collecting information and securing answers. I recommend you use your skills to your advantage and that of your father’s.

Start with a meeting with everyone attending in some way. Ask everyone for topics, versus one person deciding they’re in charge and creating an agenda in isolation.

If possible, try in the meeting to approach your father’s care as a team sport. As you all know, in team sports you depend on each position to perform, and no one can go it alone. It’s wonderful that there are six of you to explore options for care versus it all falling to one person. If you’re able to serve as a moderator and guide the group to function like a team while recognizing the strengths of each person, you’ll have the best outcome.

If you don’t think it’s possible, there are care managers who can assist your family in making decisions and managing care. There is a cost to that, though it might be worth it for some situations.

Getting siblings that have been in conflict for many years to come together as one is not an easy thing to do. I recommend that your most skilled negotiator be assigned this task. If your father is capable, he may be enlisted to direct his children to work together. It all depends on his cognitive functioning at this point. If Dad is the one who prompted this competitiveness with each other, he may be a poor option.

You will get through this time with a stronger bond if each of you can put aside your past and present bias and work together toward one goal. Praise each other frequently, recognize accomplishments, thank each other, pull your weight, communicate frequently, and be there for each other. Your siblings are more like you than anyone else on the planet, genetically speaking. It’s wonderful that you have each other.

I wish you a meaningful journey as you care for your father, and a stronger bond with your siblings when it's at an end.