Equation for conflict: 1 elderly parent + 3 adult children = 5 opinions in 6 minutes. Sadly, the one who pays the price for a lack of clear direction is the elder! Some front-line caregiving children say the worst part is getting other family members on the same page. They experience the parent differently so they view the situation differently. Failure to resolve these conflicts creates consequences beyond the parent’s life. I’ve seen old resentments divide adult siblings and keep them apart for years. How sad! How unnecessary.
If families would realize consequences could reach this far, they would decide to create a consensus. Families can add a neutral party, knowledgeable about the senior journey. Knowledge is a key requirement. Elder care and research are exploding! Let’s add a note of caution on expertise. Just because a family member is a nurse or doctor does not make them the most knowledgeable in THIS area. A family member who sites background as the definitive opinion has lost sight of two factors. First, how does their medical background relate to senior specialty? Second, they still have their own skin in this discussion. That doesn’t lead to impartiality. It’s a standard in the counseling industry not to counsel their families. In the same manner, a referee’s presence offers perspective because they are apart from the discussion while acting as a part in it.
If your family meetings were fruitless or failed; it’s time to call a referee. A referee should be a professional with experience in geriatrics. The referee could be a social worker, a counselor, or a mediator. The key qualifications are that they know geriatrics and they understand response to conflict.
Many families do not take advantage of such professionals. Some believe that these topics should be handled in the family. Why? Are all tax matters handled in the family? Do families seek legal help? Elder care is changing so rapidly the DIY approach is not longer informative. I recommend some expert input. It’s not “overkill” and it could keep your family out of trouble.
Do not assume your doctor is the expert. He (She) may not have geriatric training; ask. Your doctor may not have taken additional or up-dated training. Some doctors specialize in geriatrics but will not act as referees. Sometimes other family members refuse to pay for professional services. That’s usually done to stall the discussion, or avoid developing solutions other than theirs.
When a professional isn’t present, family disagreements can become endless. That leads to no decision. Lack of decision is as bad for the elder’s care as a poor decision. Here are three examples; a family lost a daughter, through death, to caregiving. Another family’s the elder almost lost his home to gambling debt. A third family discovered two aunts had been scammed of over $50,000 by a domestic. In each case, if family had involved a professional, received a thorough assessment, and developed a plan, interventions could have worked.
Many adult children dread discussing certain topics with their parents such as driving, or moving to a facility. That discussion works better if the adult children have a consistent front. Reaching a consensus works better when discussions are productive. If your family seems to go round and round; get off the un-merry-go-round!
Get a referee.
Senior Sidekicks offers this service: Consultation.
"A Senior Moment" is written by Ms. Sara Lieber, owner of Senior Sidekicks. Ms. Lieber has over 30 years of experience in senior care.