Your only surviving parent has been in a slow decline for a while now, and they’ve gotten very fragile. Initially, you were grateful and relieved when one of your siblings decided to move in with your parent to help care for them in their final years.
Now, you’re starting to wonder if your gratitude was misplaced. Lately, your sibling has become your parent’s “gatekeeper” and you’re worried what that might mean for the future.
What does gatekeeping look like?
When someone takes over an aging parent’s care and leaves their siblings and other interested relatives out of the loop, it could just be a sign that they’re overwhelmed. Or, they may simply be a poor communicator. In some cases, they may even think they’re protecting their parent’s privacy. In all those situations, you can usually resolve any issues with a few heart-to-heart conversations.
You may have more cause to be concerned, however, when:
- You can no longer directly reach your parent. They don’t answer your calls at all or your sibling answers their phone for them and promises to pass on a message – but you never get a call back.
- You’re no longer able to have private conversations with your parent. Maybe your sibling will let you in the door when you stop by – but they hover over your parent the entire time you are there and sometimes answer for them. You have the clear impression your interactions are being monitored.
- Your parent no longer wants to talk to you. You’ve never had a bad relationship with your parent but your sibling suddenly informs you that you’re not “permitted” to call or visit because you have somehow upset your parent.
- You find out that you’ve been removed from important documents. For example, maybe you’ve held your parent’s medical power of attorney for a while now, but when you contact their doctor to ask questions you learn that your parent has now put your sibling in that position.
- You think something is going on with the will. You may learn that you sibling has taken your parent to see an attorney – and you suspect (or know) that your parent’s will was changed.
If you believe that there’s every possibility that your parent is being manipulated and your sibling is exerting undue influence over them for personal gain, you may want to take action right away. It may be time to explore guardianship or other legal options so that you can protect your parent from harm.