Navigating Family Conflicts While Caring for Aging Parents

Posted By on August 15, 2020

As a parent or family member ages, it’s not uncommon for families to experience some form of conflict while navigating senior care. These situations require numerous responsibilities, decisions, and concerns, and when multiple people are involved, it can lead to different opinions and disagreements. In addition, as heightened emotions are at play during this time, conflicts can arise more easily and quickly.

Caring for an aging parent can bring out old patterns and roles that you and your siblings may have had as children, and it can make an already sensitive situation more stressful and overwhelming.

However, no matter what conflicts or arguments emerge over how to best care for your parent(s), it’s important to remember that everyone involved has their best interests at heart. With the right understanding and strategies, it’s possible to put differences aside and focus on establishing the right care for your parents.

HarborChase Senior Living understands that caring for an aging family member can be a delicate situation, and adding siblings, spouses, and other relatives to the mix can escalate tensions. We’re sharing some insight on common types of family conflicts, and how best to handle them to find the right care plan for an aging parent.

Common Types of Family Conflicts

Scenario 1: The Overburdened Sibling

One of the most common reasons for family conflicts while caregiving is an unequal division of responsibilities. Usually, one sibling takes on the primary role of caring for an aging parent or both parents. This could be because they live the closest, have the most time, or are seen as the “responsible one.” Whatever the reason, if one sibling is handling most of the caregiving responsibilities, it can easily lead to frustration and resentment toward other siblings. Eventually, these feelings can escalate and hinder their ability to provide the highest quality of care.

With the right planning and communication, scenarios like this can be averted. If one sibling feels that they are doing most of the caregiving, work together with other siblings to establish an appropriate division of labor. Try to divide the responsibilities by each sibling’s strengths, abilities, or other assets. Maybe the one who lives closest to Mom and Dad can continue caring for them, but other siblings can help with financial assistance, legal support, or medical advice.

As always, the primary caregiver needs to be honest about their feelings and what they might need. According to Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, a visiting professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, “if you don’t express what you need, you can’t expect other family members to read your mind (AARP).

Scenario 2: The Dissenting Family Member

When establishing a care plan for a family member, aim to reach a consensus about how the family will move forward. However, this can be easier said than done, as everyone involved may have their own ideas.

Many times, one family member doesn’t want to believe that their parent, sibling, spouse, etc. needs additional care, and will disagree with any plan provided. This can make an already challenging process even more difficult to navigate, and tensions may arise.

In this situation, remind yourself (and your family) how important it is that you put your loved one’s needs before your own. While you and your family members might disagree on choosing a community, finances, or whether or not he or she even needs care, ultimately, you all share the same goal: ensuring that they are happy and healthy.

If you and your family still can’t agree on a care plan, consider hiring a third-party mediator to ease any conflict, and provide an unbiased voice of reason.

Scenario 3: The Denying Parent(s)

Another family conflict that may emerge is not the disagreement among siblings, but the disagreement between parents and children. In some cases, your parents may be in denial of their health needs and refuse to believe that they may need additional assistance.

This situation is more common than you may realize. It can cause tensions among adult children who know that their parents need extra support and Mom and Dad, who continue to assert their independence—even when it could increase their risk of injury or worsen their health.

When this happens, it’s important to have several open and honest discussions with your parents. Gather everyone for a family meeting in a comfortable and open environment. Be sure to listen to your parents and validate any feelings they may have. Come equipped with several options and plans for care, and let them be active participants in these decisions.

Create a list of several assisted living communities to tour together, or maybe suggest they try out a respite care program a few times a month. Focus on the benefits they will gain from accepting care, not what they will lose.

Understanding and Navigating Family Conflicts

When it comes to caring for your aging parents, it’s necessary to understand how and why these conflicts occur. Whether it’s dealing with unequal caregiving roles, refusal to agree, or denying parents, determining a constructive way forward can be challenging. By having open and honest communication, and educating yourself on the full scope of care choices, you and your family can reach an agreement that allows your parents to receive the best care possible.

HarborChase Senior Living offers choices for all levels of care—from attentive assisted living to refreshing respite care. Our communities are dedicated to providing customized, empowering care to residents while providing their families with peace of mind.

If you are interested in learning more about life at HarborChase or would like to tour one of our communities, we encourage you to contact us today.

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