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HomeGenerational Mediation

Working With Your Siblings to Make Decisions for Your Parents

Ask the
Experts by Sean Cleland

: My parents are getting older and I worry what will happen if/when my siblings and I must make decisions for them. Is there anything we can do ahead of time?

By 2030 there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under the age of 16. As we age an increasing number of care concerns arise, such as the ability to live independently.  Families should have a plan in place to handle these care concerns before they arise.

If you have parents in their mid-seventies or older, it is a good idea to hold a family meeting to discuss how they want their needs met during their later years
and to make sure that each family members’ role is agreed upon. Without advanced planning, families can be caught off guard by a care crisis. In such cases prompt family coordination becomes vital. When families don’t plan in advance and cannot coordinate their efforts, caring for a parent is often left to one sibling out of necessity or convenience, which is a recipe for conflict and resentment. 

Planning in advance of a care crisis or after one develops can be challenging. The discussions can be emotional and require informed decision making. Often, family dynamics add to the difficulty. In both scenarios, an Elder Care Mediator can be invaluable.

Elder Care Mediators are experts at helping families plan for age-based concerns or handle an emerging care crisis. In a completely confidential setting, elder care mediators design and guide family discussions. They help families to make informed decisions by including professionals, such as care managers and elder law attorneys. The result is a workable and long-lasting solution that serves to decrease hostilities between family members.


Sean Cleland is a collaboratively trained attorney and mediator specializing in divorce and elder law disputes. His company, Cleland Collaborative Solutions, can be found on the web at He can be reached at 586-981-0990 and is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals and on the board of directors. 

Written October 2017

Strong Families * Vibrant Community

The Family Center is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and preventative education to empower families to successfully navigate life’s social, emotional and physical challenges. The Family Center is completely supported by community donations. To learn more, call 313.447.1374 or email

The Family Center does not endorse or recommend the individuals or businesses who have provided the information contained on this page and the individuals and businesses who have provided this information are solely responsible for the content of the information provided. The Family Center provides this information "as is" without any warranties of any kind and disclaims liability for damages of any kind resulting from the use of this information.