Dueling Daughters and Battling Brothers

Sadly, I have witnessed many times at the end of a parent’s life, the adult child (or children) failing to honor the wishes of their mother or father in the end of life care decisions.  And if there is disagreement amongst the siblings, it can create bad feelings at a time when there are already enough ‘bad’ feelings to go around.

Maybe the parents did not have the forethought to create the documents that they needed to assure that their wishes were made clear.  Maybe they did not communicate their wishes fully to their children.  Maybe the documents were done, but for some reason the child (or children) decides to ignore those wishes and determine treatment based on what they would like (or are comfortable with).

And when you have one child that wants to do one thing and another child that feels differently, it creates a situation of bad feelings.  For the one who wants to advocate for the parents’ wishes, they feel that they have failed if they do not prevail.  And for the child that is choosing their own wishes over that of the parents, there is an underlying, deep reason that is trumping those wishes.  And when both sides are vested in being ‘right’, nobody ‘wins’.

To those of you who find yourselves in this position I encourage you to take a step back.

If you are making care decisions based on your wishes rather than that of your parents (whether they are documented or not), I would ask that you examine why and to think about what you would feel if somebody did not honor your wishes at the end.  We all have different beliefs about end of life care and that is OK!  What I think is most important is that we can see our way clear to honor our parents’ wishes even if they differ from our own just as we would want our children to honor ours even if they believed differently.

And if you are the child trying to push to honor your parents’ wishes, I would challenge you to look at the relationship that you have with your siblings and think about what ‘winning’ on that issue will cost you in the way of your relationship going forward.  I absolutely believe and advocate for the rights of seniors, but in the end, family harmony can be a powerful navigation system.

Maybe my thoughts on that are a legacy from my own father.  He definitely has different views about end of life than I have, but did communicate at the time of making his living will that he placed a premium on family harmony in end of life decisions.  Maybe there was a wisdom there that I didn’t fully grasp at the time.

This time of transition is difficult enough without disharmony in the family.  If you need to work through these issues, be kind to each other.  You are all dealing with this disagreement at a time when there are already deep emotional feelings.  Try to remember that your siblings are having some of the same feelings and see your way clear to approach them with some compassion.

And if you can do this, you will truly have honored your parents’ lives in the best way that you can, by loving each other.

On the journey with you…….Kathy


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