When it comes to aging parents, there are many familial conflicts that can arise. As mothers and fathers get older it seems that all of us become experts in caring for an elderly loved one; all of us seem to have their “best interests” in mind. Still, as you may know yourself, mutual understanding among family members can be hard to come by.
Disagreement and discord can plague the most close-knit families and divide the most distant of relatives. It’s an intensely emotional time and can be quite prolonged and painful-some adult children grow depressed, some turn overly protective, some deny what is happening, some disappear. It’s understandable that each family member will handle the situation uniquely.
Yet often when care is needed most, the person most vulnerable is the senior. Bickering and squabbling does not aid us and especially not the aging parent.
Here are three ways to come to a better agreement if you and your relatives disagree about how to care for your mom or dad:
Schedule regular family meetings to keep everyone on the same page
It’s important for everyone to feel as if they have a voice and are being heard. Regular family meetings provide an opportunity for family members to share their interests, opinions, feelings, and beliefs. While in-person meetings are preferred, many factors may prevent everyone from “getting together.” Fortunately Skype and Face Time are sensible video messaging tools. (And be prepared if you suspect that your family’s “regular” meetings call for a mediator or legal counsel.)
Remember, the senior is the most vulnerable family member during this stressful period of their life. You must to act genuinely in their best interests, and act respectfully towards the other people trying to do the same. Do not permit your conversations to rehash sources of old conflict, and do not ail grievances that concern yourself over your parent. Keep conversations current, focusing on the senior and action steps to keep them comfortable and safe.
It is a cultural fact that family members carry different roles and responsibilities. As it concerns structure and dynamics, family members will get assigned specific tasks. An aging parent calls for everyone to pitch in! One family member will be better working on financial and legal aspects, another will do better concentrating on physical care, and others may be responsible for frequent visits and phone calls. Working as a group invites stronger consensus when tough decisions must be made. If at all possible don’t force someone to take on a role in which they feel uncomfortable and unprepared.
We hope our parents will lead long, prosperous lives, and when it comes to caring for them in later years and at the end, we hope that it is a comfortable, loving process.