Senior Living Options of the Desert

When Families Fight Over Caring for an Elderly Parent

6 ways to bring everyone together!

When dad starts getting lost on his way to the store or mom can’t get up and down the stairs like she used to, everyone in the family may agree it’s time to look at getting some help.

In some cases this life transition goes smoothly and siblings come together to solve the problem. But, the reality is that most often this is not the case. As someone who has worked with many families going through this transition, I have witnessed long-simmering disagreements between family members pop up and get in the way. But, this doesn’t have to happen with your family.

At the end of the day we all want what’s best for our parents. If you haven’t spent much time with your siblings in the past few years, this is a great opportunity to come together, get to know each other as adults and decide together what’s best for your parents. Having some tools to help you navigate through this is beneficial.

Here are some common problems and how to navigate past them.

Issue #1: A crisis occurs and everyone is caught off-guard

You get that dreaded call that mom has fallen and is in the hospital with a broken hip. The doctor says she’ll need full-time care after her stay in a rehab facility, but no one has a clue where to start.

Resolution:  Start talking before you need to – plan ahead!

This is one of those things in life that we know is going to happen at some point as we get older but no one really wants to think about it, let alone talk about it. In reality, this a conversation you should start having with your aging parents and family members long before there’s a need for it.

One way to approach this conversation is to ask you parent, hypothetically, what they would want in the future should something happen? How important is it for them to age at home? Would they rather live in a community where they can socialize? Is moving in with a child an option? Or, do they have the funds to hire an aide to come in so they can remain at home? No decisions need to be made at this point but just get an idea of what’s important to them.

This should be a long, ongoing conversation so when it does occur it’s not a traumatic event for the family.

Issue #2: Rehashing arguments from childhood

“Remember how dad used to come to all your soccer games but he never once made it to my band concerts?”

Whether the fights are about who dad loved the most, or who got shafted when the family house was sold, family fights have a way of popping back up just when you need to come together as a family and work as a team.

Resolution: Leave the past in the past

Call a family meeting and agree to table those issues for a later date. The priority at this moment is making sure mom or dad is safe and well cared for.

It may sound easier than it is but you have to take your own feelings out of it and make the best decisions for your parent.

Issue #3: It’s all about the money

Money is the root of so many family arguments. If one sibling is struggling to pay the rent while the other has a six-figure salary, how do you equitably split the cost of caring for dad? Who gets the house when he sells it? Should the family member responsible for the day-to-day caregiving inherit a larger chunk of the estate?

Resolution: Stick with a budget, and have each family member contribute what they can

The first step is to figure out exactly what your parent can afford, and how much will have to be supplemented by family members. Lay out what your parent’s resources are in a budget, including income, assets, expenses and any debts, so no one is in the dark about where the money is going.

Once you figure out what’s needed, see how each family member can contribute. Focus on what each person can contribute, and integrate that into your plan, instead of being resentful about what they can’t do.

If a sibling can’t pitch in financially, he or she can help out in other ways, such as cleaning out the attic, scheduling and driving mom to doctors’ appointments or helping with grocery shopping once a week.

Issue #4: What if you still can’t agree

Even after you’ve created a budget and discussed what mom or dad would truly want, you’re still butting heads over the plan.

Resolution: Get an outside, objective opinion

Emotions can often get in the way of seeing the big picture when you’re making decisions for someone you love. I’d recommend looking at hiring a geriatric care manager who can assess your loved one’s abilities and needs and guide you toward the best resources for the situation. Or you can seek a family mediator, who can help the family come up with a plan that works for everyone.

Issue #5: Roles are unclear

You all agree that dad needs to move into an assisted living facility. But who is taking the lead on finding and interviewing the best facilities?

Resolution: Put it all in writing

It can become confusing if each sibling thinks someone else is one handling a task — or you and your sister both take the lead and then get annoyed that you stepped on each other’s toes.

Write down exactly what each family member is responsible for, and send it in an email so everyone has a copy. Divide and conquer!

Issue #6: Everything’s going along great until…

Just when you’ve gotten everyone to agree, dad decides he doesn’t want to go to an assisted living facility or the sister who’s been handling the day-to-day care gets a great job opportunity in another state.

Resolution: Reassess often

When you put a plan in place, agree that it may be edited and updated as your family situation changes, and check in with each other at least every three to six months, but certainly when there is a change in health, finances or care.

Regular communication is helpful not only for keeping up the level of care your loved one needs, but it could be just the thing you need to reconnect with your siblings after all these years.

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