Sibling rivalry is real and natural. We learn at an early age it is a built-in part of family dynamics. This can be both good (a source of motivation) and bad (a cause of pettiness and distancing)
Denial, particularly in caring for a loved who may be in declining physical health or particularly, a loved one with Dementia, is also quite common. We are all, for lack of a better word, cheerleaders for our loved ones. We want to see them do well and be well so it is often hard to see or accept when reality offers a different picture.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc, National Speaker on Dementia Caregiving and author of more than 400 “Common Sense Caregiving” articles offers this tongue in cheek observation, “just standing next to a family member with Dementia causes you to suffer from denial!”
Sometimes it is the primary Caregiver that is in denial and cheerleading; sometimes it is the more distant family member who does not have perfect information. This can often put siblings on opposite sides of awareness vs. denial when it comes to a loved one in the early-stages of dementia and can serve to trigger inherent dynamics of sibling rivalry.
Brain chemistry doesn’t help!
Anticipation of a visit from a geographically distant family member and interacting with them causes our brain to release Oxytocin (“the love hormone”) that reduces anxiety and can create clarity in an otherwise foggy brain; or provide a “pep in the step” that defies a more typical physical presentation.
A predictable response to a visit from a loved one can mean your somewhat sedentary loved one will be more active or your often confused and anxious parent will be a coherent, rational angel for your visiting sibling… and make you look like you are exaggerating things.
This is “natural” and even predictable on all fronts.
Here is what you do: Rather than argue about it give each other a hug… enjoy the personal benefits of Oxytocin and work on making some plans you all can live with.
Thank YOU for Caring!
Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Caregiving and Sibling Rivalry: