But when families put aside their differences and work together as a team for the best interest of their elderly loved one, they are often able to overcome this challenge and assure that their parent’s last years aren’t marred by bickering and strife.
Here are some reasons families fight about senior care, and advice about how to prevent these types of conflict from derailing you:
1. Siblings View Parent’s Needs Differently
Adult siblings don’t always see care needs the same way. One child may have the impression that mom is doing fine at home while another feels that care must be put in place immediately.
Possible Solution: When siblings disagree about how much care a parent needs, or about whether the parent needs care at all, the conflict can often be resolved by seeking expert guidance. Arrange for a visiting nurse with a background in elder care assessments to see your older loved one at home and gauge the level of safety. Also seek information and guidance from the senior’s primary physician so that the assessment process is as thorough as possible. Clarification from healthcare professionals can help answer this question definitively instead of allowing it to become a point of contention that prevents progress from being made.
2. Parent Resists Care
Sometimes the whole family is on board and agrees that mom or dad needs care, but the parent resists any change tooth and nail. It’s understandable; people value their independence highly, and are loathe to give up any of it.
Possible Solution: When you’re trying to persuade a parent to accept a move to a senior community, make it clear that you’re not trying to “put them away.” Help your parent understand your concerns and that they come from love. Also educate your parent about the senior care options that are available in the area. Your parent may imagine moving to some dreadful institutional situation while you have something much different in mind. Today’s assisted living communities are attractive and comfortable and may contrast sharply with what your parent is imagining. If your parent has advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may be able to initiate proceedings to obtain guardianship, but you can’t force an elderly parent of sound mind to receive care. Our in depth article, Moving Elderly Parents: Convincing Mom and Dad provides includes additional guidance on dealing with this tough situation.
3. Family Members Regress to Earlier Roles or Past Issues Resurface
When the immediate family comes together to care for mom or dad, they often revert to dysfunctional and unhealthy roles of the past. Sibling rivalry that has lain dormant during adulthood may suddenly rear its head again during the stressful process of caring for an aging parent.
Possible Solution: It’s not realistic to get along splendidly with everyone in your family, or for your parents needs to suddenly unite a family that was formerly divided. But recognize that you won’t always see the best behavior from your loved ones or agree with them on every issue. Encourage them to be caring and dignified during this process by setting a good example yourself. Be the “big person in the room” and avoid being sucked into feuds or bickering that feel as if they are a flashback to a disastrous family road trip of your childhood. Practice active listening, as family members who feel like their voice isn’t being heard are most likely to become frustrated.
4. One Child Does All the Heavy Lifting
Often the child who lives closest to mom or dad will be the one that assumes the role of the main caregiver. When other family members don’t offer to help, the “lucky” child who is giving all the care can come to resent the siblings who have gotten off without having to help.
Possible Solution: Caregivers who have found themselves shouldering an inordinate portion of the burden from caregiving shouldn’t be afraid to ask other family members for help. Sometimes it is necessary to spell out your specific needs to your siblings rather than presuming that the needs are already understood. Outline to your siblings the challenges that you’re having, and any areas that they may be able to help with. While they may not be close enough to physically offer a hand, they may be able to contribute in other areas, such as by paying for caregiving related bills. They may also be able to host your parent in their home for short periods so that you can have a break.
At Bel Aire, we hope to ease the burden of tension that could arise between families by showing the loving atmosphere we will provide for your parents and/or loved ones.