As an elderly loved one ages, every person in the family processes it at a different rate. Some come to terms with it immediately and step up to help where needed, while others may back away and dream about the good old days.
This is where the tension begins. And it can cause fights between family members – sometimes severe – that not only add stress to an already stressful situation but can rip apart a family forever.
Here are a few top reasons we’ve found families fight over senior care and advice on how to deal with these types of conflict before they derail you as a family.
Family members view needs differently.
Family members often view a loved one’s needs in different ways. While one may feel that mom is fine at home – with a little care once in a while – another may feel that mom needs twenty-four-hour care. We see things differently for many reasons, including how much time we spend with them, our relationships with the ageing family member, and sometimes we see only what we truly want to see.
When family members disagree about how much help a loved one truly needs, it may benefit from calling in a neutral third party for guidance. Talk with different levels of support systems and hear what recommendations they have. Talk with a senior’s primary physician for assessment. Ask for recommendations. These people are experts and can help you weigh your options carefully.
Loved one resists care
Sometimes the entire family agrees that a parent needs care … yet the parent doesn’t agree. No matter how many problems arise, they do not want to give up their independence, and they will fight it the entire way.
While you can initiate proceedings to gain guardianship over someone with advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia, you can’t force an elderly parent of sound mind to take action. Your help and guidance can share with them the benefits of having an extra pair of hands in the home or of taking the next step and having advanced care. Provide guidance and introduce things slowly. When they see benefits in the little things, it may make the next step easier.
One child takes on a heavier role.
Often the child that lives closest to mom or dad takes on the most responsibility. When other family members don’t offer to help and avoid the situation because the “lucky child” has it under control, the fighting can quickly pursue.
As a caregiver, if you find yourself taking on more and more responsibility while the others slip behind, it may be time to start asking for help. Communication is key. In some cases, other family members may be afraid to step in, worrying they will be overstepping their bounds. By having family meetings and allowing everyone to talk freely, you can keep communication open and truly step in where help is needed most.
One child takes total control.
The exact opposite of the previous problem is when one child takes over complete responsibility for a parent and excludes every other family member from the decision making process. They leave others in the dark on problems and outcomes and prefer to do everything themselves.
It hurts to be left out, especially when you watch a parent change and need more care. Start with your parent; are they happy and receiving quality care? Your parent’s happiness and safety are key. From there, you can work at becoming involved in different ways. Take on responsibilities that may not involve care – how about researching or handling financial situations? If you take over things your sibling doesn’t have experience with, it can help keep you in the loop and allow you to take action where you can.
Balancing caregiving with family life
They don’t call it the sandwich generation without reason. Studies show that up to 75 per cent of caregivers are women, and many are raising children, having spouses, and other family commitments of their own. They may have full-time jobs in more than one area – caregiving simply adds another “full time job” to the plate.
This can bring resentment into the situation in a lot of ways. A spouse may tire of not having attention. Children may act out because of the changing dynamics. Even siblings can start fighting as they care for mom and dad, especially if their home lives vary to some degree. A single sibling, for instance, may resent having to take on more responsibility because a married sibling pressures them into it. Ask for help when you need it. Talk about the burden whenever you can.
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