Have you come across siblings suing each other?
Yes, I have. I was told by one geriatric care manager of two sisters who disagreed about whether their mom who had dementia could live alone, and clearly she could not. The sister who lived closest said, "Mom is fine," and the daughter who lived far away sued for guardianship for her mother so that she could place her in a facility. That kind of thing happens. Also over end of life. If one sibling wants to pull the plug and has the power of attorney, the other may sue to stop it from happening. And of course, it happens over inheritance. A lot of people don't realize it, but if they have the power of attorney, legally they are a fiduciary, which means they have to keep records and receipts and account for where the money is going, which can be very hard if you're the caregiver and you're overwhelmed. For the person in that situation, I would say: Even if it's a pain in the butt, send an accounting to everybody else in the family, just an E-mail once a month or whatever. Even if they're not asking, getting the information gives them a reason to trust, not to distrust.
What do siblings who positively navigate this transition do that others don't?
They accept that it's a family responsibility. They talk about it together. They talk about it early and often. And they do what sharing is possible.
Are there any positives to the "twilight" period?
There is a huge opportunity here for people to grow. To see their siblings as the adults they are now rather than the people they remember from childhood and also to see their parents as separate human beings who are going through their own struggle and facing their end. It's really hard, but seeing it, accepting it, being there for your parents in whatever ways possible can be hugely fulfilling and satisfying. Also good news: After the last parent dies, we tend to feel a really strong pull toward our siblings as the last people who are part of our original family. Maintaining that connection can be a really valuable thing. I know a number of people, including siblings I interviewed, who were able to make up after this period did break them apart. It is possible in many families. Not always.