Family dynamics can be complicated, particularly during times of crisis and/or when big decisions need to be made. One such time is when a loved one needs senior care. Our experience has been that it’s all too common for families to disagree on the best way forward. And this isn’t a situation where you can agree to disagree either. So, what can you do? These tips can help your family get on the same page.
Avoid These Pitfalls
One of the first things that can happen in navigating these changes is that rivalries and resentments from childhood often come roaring back among siblings and other family members even though you get along really well as adults. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that when stressed or uncertain, people tend to fall into familiar roles (potentially without even realizing it) such as the older sibling who knows best, the peacemaker of the family, the too-busy sibling or the one who avoids responsibility for example. Or, perhaps family members have preconceived ideas of how everyone else will react (even if that’s not the case) and that interferes with communication.
What’s more, as your loved one ages there can be a range of magnified emotions and perhaps even conflicting ones both within ourselves and between family members such as:
- Sadness and grief
All of this is key in how you’ll come together – or not – for your loved one, so awareness is essential in helping to avoid these pitfalls.
The Importance of Coming Together as a Family
If you’re the primary caregiver or the family member closest to the situation, you may wonder why you need anyone else’s input at all other than your loved one. While it’s certainly true that you may have the inside track, that doesn’t mean the rest of the family’s input isn’t valuable. Whether it’s a different perspective, ideas you haven’t considered or simply more objectivity, everyone’s opinion should be heard and respected. If for no other reason; when people’s opinions are valued, they’re much more likely to be collaborative and invested in the decisions made.
Have a Family Meeting
A family meeting provides a forum for open, honest communication about your loved one’s care needs and their wants for the future. Invite all your siblings, spouses and other relatives who will be affected – as well as your loved one of course. Don’t worry about everyone being in person either as we’re all well accustomed to Zoom, Skype and FaceTime at this point. But, make sure the family meeting takes place in a setting that’s comfortable for those in the room, and at a time that’s free of distractions and rush for everyone.
To prepare for the discussion, particularly if you are facilitating the meeting, write down your talking points to make sure you cover everything, and to keep everyone focused should things begin to get heated or emotional.
Also consider your communication style versus that of your other family members. Do you get everything out in the open? Stew quietly? Maybe somewhere in between? Keep in mind that to have a productive discussion you may have to adjust your style.
If You Can’t Reach Consensus on Senior Care
Ideally the entire family does their best to stay open-minded and collaborative as you consider what your loved one wants and needs in senior care. But, if and your family still can’t come together it might be time to enlist the help of a neutral third party such as your loved one’s physician, a case manager, social worker, lawyer, financial advisor, therapist or spiritual leader to help you get on the same page.
For more information, join us for “It is time to have THE TALK? Tough Conversations with Aging Loved Ones,” a Facebook Live Q&A event on February 11 at 6 p.m. CST.