One of the hardest parts of having an aging parent is watching the tables turn. Once, they were responsible for taking care of you and your siblings. Now, it is your turn to take care of them.
This shift in responsibility can cause stress in even the closest families. Maybe your parent needs more help caring for themselves, but is reluctant to accept it. Or perhaps one sibling feels like they are shouldering a disproportionate amount of the burden, and others aren’t pulling their weight.
Regardless of the source of conflict, dealing with it is always better than letting things fester. But how do you do that?
Be proactive and talk early
Talk about issues your family might encounter before they become a problem. If it seems like a parent may be on the verge of needing more help, consider getting all the siblings together to make a plan. It works best if everyone is honest at the beginning about what they can and cannot commit to. Having appropriate expectations can help minimize anger and conflict down the line.
In addition, talk to your parents about their plans and wishes for long-term care. You both will be able to think more clearly if you have a conversation before things reach a crisis point.
Focus on what matters most
Just because your brothers and sisters have grown up and moved out doesn’t mean you’ve left your old sibling rivalries behind. It is actually very common for childhood issues to influence adult conflicts, especially when parents are involved. Most people don’t even realize that’s what is happening.
These conflicts can become even more pronounced when one sibling is an overstressed family caregiver, or when siblings have differing ideas about what should be done in a particular situation.
When this happens, remember why you’re dealing with the issue in the first place. It’s not about someone being right and someone being wrong. It is about doing what is best for the parent you love. What is in their best interest? What would they want? Try to put personal issues aside and focus on your parent’s needs instead.
Get help when you need it
Some conflicts just aren’t going to get resolved on their own. Instead of letting an issue cause a rift in your family, consider addressing it through mediation.
In elder mediation, a neutral third party will facilitate a family discussion to help resolve your issue. Mediators never force a decision or place blame. Instead they will ask questions and make suggestions to help your family reach a decision that everyone can agree to. The mediator will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
Often, letting someone else take responsibility for facilitating the conversation can be exactly what a family needs to move forward. Elder mediation can resolve almost any issue involving an aging loved one, but some of the most common disputes include where a parent will live, who will provide care and how to manage a parent’s finances and expenses.