Building Family Consensus When Your Elderly Parent Needs Care
You’ve noticed Mom needs more help with daily activities. You’ve seen the warning signs and have determined it’s time to make arrangements that help her maintain her quality of life. But you’re surprised when you receive pushback from another family member, perhaps a sibling.
Maybe your brother doesn’t seem to think Mom needs help. He says the family can handle this internally and it would be a waste of money to bring someone in from the outside to help.
First, don’t be surprised. The reality of an aging parent losing his or her dependency take its toll on thousands of families in your position. And unfortunately, when making decisions for your parent, logic-based decision making can succumb to old family dynamics.
“When there is a family crisis with a parent, the adult children, no matter how educated they are, no matter how successful, with a variety of life experiences, they regress to the same dynamic of whatever was going on when they were 7, 8, 10, 12 years old,” says Licensed Clinical Psychologist Craig Grether, in an interview with The San Diego Tribune .
“And that’s when you get, ‘You were always Mom’s favorite,’” Grether said. The article in reference is titled “Caregiving Can Tie Families in Knots.”
If you’re noticing a similar dynamic happening within your family, try these methods to build consensus on an action plan for your aging parent.
1. Keep the Conversation About the Parent
You cannot let the conversation devolve into the anecdote you read above. But it happens so often in these situations as family members vie for parental favoritism. If you notice this happening, you must acknowledge it aloud.
If suddenly the conversation shifts from care options to who Mom or Dad’s favorite was, immediately steer the conversation back to care. Remind everyone that this isn’t about you or them, but about ensuring your parent retains the quality of life he or she is used to having.
2. Keep a Journal of Mom or Dad’s Condition
A common problem occurs when there's physical distance between families. Far too often, there's a schism between the family members living closest to your aging loved one and those who live out of state or further away. Siblings who don’t live nearby and don’t get to see Mom or Dad every day have no idea the extent of problems their parent is enduring. They may not agree their parent needs help because while they're in town, Mom or Dad seems fine.
Family living close to the situation will have better insight. But proximity seldom wins the case for decision making, and it won’t build consensus.
Instead, keep a journal. Document your parent’s evolving needs. When it’s time to have a conversation about caregiving with the family, documentation can go a long way in making the case for more assistance.
3. Avoid One-on-Ones with the Parent
What’s most important in building familial consensus is a unified front among siblings. But achieving that is much more difficult if you or your siblings are having one-on-ones with your parent discussing care options.
Those conversations are an easy opportunity to elicit feelings of favoritism or distrust. Your parent may even be the one appealing to you or your sibling, but if you can build a united front with your siblings, you can avoid the alienation and skepticism that accompany these one-on-ones.
The reality is, families will disagree on the right course of action for Mom or Dad, and that's normal. But coming to the table with facts keeps the conversation objective. If you can keep records of your parent, and even do some due diligence into what paying for home care services would look like, you can have a much more productive conversation with your family and immediately begin building consensus.
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