handling disagreements among adult children caregivers

disgreements among caregiversJoan, Steve, and Ross are siblings who are dealing with the
death of their mother, which ended up leaving their father, Matt, living at home alone.

The loss of their mother and the grieving they were going through left the family emotionally raw.

The kids are now concerned about their father living safely at home alone. Matt has mild dementia as he enters his 86th year. The house is a two-story home with Matt’s bedroom on the second floor. Fall risk is a major concern as he has experienced falls in the past.
Joan and Steve live near their father, while Ross lives in another state, a seven-hour drive away. The kids believe their father needs a caregiver to assist him but are not in agreement about how to go about this.

Ross feels the family should hire a professional caregiving company, while Joan and Steve believe they can manage the situation themselves with the help of some neighbors.
Ross also felt strongly that his father’s bedroom should be relocated downstairs so as to minimize the fall risk. Joan and Steve don’t agree with that move and stated, “We are here and see Dad every day.” This comment led to hard feelings between these siblings.

What to do?
The feelings Joan, Steve, and Ross are experiencing are all too common in adult children caring for a loved one. Our parents took care of us when we were growing up, but now many of our parents need us as they enter their golden years.

Unfortunately, with that comes disagreements from family members on what’s best for Mom or Dad when they need help with day-to-day activities or even when their loved one becomes ill.

Here are seven of the most common situations that I see all the time, along with potential solutions.

A Parent Doesn’t Want Care
If a parent refuses to move to a personal care or assisted living facility or won’t allow assistance through an in-home care provider, let them know you are simply presenting options so their quality of life remains stable.

Always let them feel in control of these important decisions, and make it clear you are presenting these options because you love and care about them and want the best for them.

One Child is More Involved than Others
Caring for an elderly mother or father is hard work but can be even more overwhelming when only one child takes an active role in the process.

If there are other siblings in the picture, don’t assume they know how you’re feeling or what you need. Let them know you need help. Even if a sibling lives at a distance, there are plenty of ways they can play a role. Perhaps they can visit for a short period of time, assist with finances, or help research potential homecare providers.

How Can We Afford This?
The question should be reframed to, “How can we not afford this?” Unfortunately, the cost of in-home care or personal care is typically more than many families can afford, and government assistance isn’t always there.

Come together in person as a family and have an honest discussion on what each person can contribute. If the numbers still don’t work, figure out what each person can sacrifice to make care more affordable.

In the end, a family moderator specializing in these situations may help bring a resolution. Seek the advice of an elder law attorney.

Does Mom or Dad Need Care?
Oftentimes, family members disagree over whether or not a parent needs care, and if so, what kind of care is needed. Seek the objective opinion of a family physician or other qualified healthcare professional.

Locate a quality personal homecare agency and ask for a free in-home assessment.

End-of-Life Care and Wills
While one family member might want hospice assistance for their loved one, another might want to bring a terminally ill parent into their home and care for them. This is why everyone should have a living will that spells these things out clearly so there is no confusion or disagreement when the parents might not be able to answer for themselves.

It’s also important that a will be drafted so after the person’s death, it is very clear who inherits what.

Dealing with Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can be a major contributing factor in adult children disagreeing on the path of care for their parents. The added stress can exacerbate feelings and emotions.
Caregiver burnout is a real phenomenon and is accompanied by a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude—from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.

Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able—either physically or financially. Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones. It is critical that adult children who provide caregiving get the support and help they need to weather the storm.

Talking with One Voice
Working through disagreements is important so the family can talk with their loved one with one supportive voice. It can be extremely hard to have “the talk” with parents even when the family is united.

Dealing with all the issues listed above before you talk with a loved one will have a direct bearing on the results you are trying to achieve.

Remember that the goal of keeping your loved one safe, secure, and independent at home is why you are working together as a family. More importantly, whether you understand it or not, your parents are now looking to you to help make their golden years the best they can be. )))

Kurt A. Kazanowski, MS, RN, CHE, is the author of A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad (www.asonsjourney.com) and the owner of Homewatch Caregivers, a leading personal care home health company. Kazanowski can be contacted at 734.658.6162 or kaznow@comcast.net. www.thehomecareexpert.com

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