It’s no doubt that caring and making decisions for the welfare of your elderly loved one is challenging. Everyone in the family tends to be involved emotionally, physically, and financially. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when the sensitive family dynamics are disrupted. Conflicts arise, different opinions come out, and family squabbles are inevitable. The ability to resolve family conflicts can make all the difference when families are stressed. We see a lot of families struggling when they have to put their loved one in our assisted living homes and memory care. Based on our experience, we’ve seen some families who definitely know how to resolve family conflict.
However, if the situation is handled well from the beginning, you might just turn it around and make it a learning experience. In fact, caring for your loved one can potentially bring the family closer together. Your family can be a great team to help your elderly parent get through this final stage in life.
How to Resolve Family Conflict (in our opinion)
Knowing the common types beforehand actually helps resolve family conflicts in the long run. Here are some of the common disagreements that arise:
Disagreement over your loved one’s condition
A family member thinks your parent needs to stop driving for safety reasons. Another family member argues that your they need to maintain their independence. This situation may be all too familiar. Family members usually have different opinions when it comes to the senior’s condition. Or solutions to problems at hand.
Different opinions on financial matters
Caring for a senior does not come cheap. Therefore the discussion on how to pay for your elderly parent’s care is one of the usual causes of tension. Many of your decisions regarding senior care will be based on your family’s finances and the ability to pay for it. Decisions like:
- Whether or not medical intervention is needed
- Where the senior will reside
- The need for in-home care
And similar issues.
Burden of Care
Another common cause of discord among family members is when the burden of caring for your elderly loved one is not equally distributed. Often the eldest children in the family takes on most of the caregiving duties. The primary caregiver might assume the role because he/she lives near your elderly parent. Or he/she has the fewest obligations. Or he/she is the close to the senior. This may stir up resentment among other siblings and make it harder to resolve family conflicts.
Rivalries and family history
Even mature adults feel a tinge of jealousy or anger when they find themselves back in the ‘sandbox’. The feelings can be strained or felt under the burden of taking care of your aging parent. Old rivalries or resentments can come out again when the stress builds.
How to Avoid Conflicts
Before we talk about how to resolve family conflicts, we want to talk about hot to avoid the conflicts all together. We’ve established that taking care of your aging loved one can be challenging. You and your family have to be focused on one thing – your loved one’s best interests. There are two easy ways to steer clear of conflicts with your family:
Meet regularly with your family
As they say in medicine, ‘early detection is the key’. The minute you notice that your elderly loved one has health problems, you might want to hold a family meeting. The goal of every meeting is to inform your family about the health of your loved one. Make decisions as a family. Other than that, the meetings can also be a source of support for your loved one. Or an avenue to address disagreements.
If some of the family members live away from you, you can still conduct family meetings through conference calls via Skype, Zoom, or Facebook Messenger. Set a time and date that is convenient for everyone. You can hold family meetings once a month. Do so before a major crisis occurs. It’s also a good idea to bring food over. Reserve a little time after the meeting to catch up.
Divide the Labor
Don’t just think about equally dividing the labor. Consider dividing it in a way that takes advantage of each family member’s skills, interests, and available time. A sibling can handle taking your elderly loved one to doctor’s appointments. Or driving them around. Another one can handle the finances or scout for assisted living facilities.
Dividing labor lessens the possibility of conflicts and resentment. Therefore, caregiving becomes more effective. An excellent venue for dividing the labor and setting a schedule is family meetings. At those meetings you can discuss how to solve family problems and conflicts.
The Importance of Communication
Open communication is important to help resolve family conflicts. It’s understandable that most families have taboo subjects that they refuse to address. Most of the time, these are sensitive topics such as
- A drinking problem
- Sex-related issues or
- Family tragedies
But more often than not, family members avoid addressing the issue in the fear of hurting each other’s feelings. Or because the family isn’t used to talking about problems.
Nonetheless, open communication is necessary to prevent misunderstandings and resolve family conflicts.
Address the elephant in the room.
If you feel as if you’re the only one doing all the heavy lifting, consider talking about it with your siblings. There is a chance they do not realize that you’re feeling burdened with the tasks at hand. In one of your family meetings, explain how you feel without sounding harsh. Speak in a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational way. Be concrete and specific as to what you want when asking for help.
Talk to your family members about your dilemma. Likewise, if a family member is doing most of the caregiving, support and encouragement are important. Allow him/her to express her frustrations and then offer a solution to the problem. It’s important to address the issue before it gets worse.
Help in any way that you can.
If you live far away from your family and your elderly loved one, be sure to show your support. Call them often and check in to see how they are faring. Offer assistance when you can. Talk to your elderly loved one and to your family members. Ask how they are feeling. Allow them to share their concerns and frustrations with you. Remember to be patient. Sometimes, the caregiver just has to let it all out to help resolve family conflicts.
The National Caregivers Alliance urges family members who live far away to show their appreciation to the caregivers. Let them know you appreciate what they do for your loved one and for your family. If you have time, visit them. Take over your elderly loved one’s care during your visit if you can. If you cannot, there are other ways to show that you care – pay for additional care or hire a housecleaner to help the caregiver.
Other Ways to Resolve Family Conflicts
Even though you’ve done all you can, there is no guarantee that conflicts will never happen. When they happen, here are two things you can do to prevent a massive blow-up:
You can ask someone – a counselor or a mediator – for their advice on how to solve family problems and conflicts. It’s better for families to have an outside facilitator who can offer advice and support. People may think a family member would bring a bias.
Even though your family does not have major disagreements, it may be beneficial to still see a counselor once in a while. Counselors are able to help you find resources and look for other options. They will also go through every dilemma and help your family achieve a feasible solution. You are able to search for a counselor near you through the internet or you may also contact your local senior center. Check out our resource directory for some counselors in the Phoenix area.
Take a step back.
Conflicts with another family member may sometimes cloud your judgment. It’s beneficial for everyone involved if you take a step back. Look at the situation in a different light. Seeing a therapist and seeking for their support and insight might help deal with the resentment. It might help resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Sometimes, you’re too consumed with taking care of your elderly loved one that you forget to look after yourself. Be sure that you stay healthy – eat nutritious meals, exercise, get some adequate sleep and take a break. You deserve it.
All of the points mentioned above are not an assurance that you won’t experience any conflict. But there is a huge chance that following these steps will help you manage and resolve conflicts more effectively.
If we can help in any way, please feel free to reach out to us at our home page. Or call (623-295-9890) or email us (Cam@aparadiseforparents.com).