As previously discussed caring for an elderly parent is a challenging job and often comes with family strife. Conflict between siblings may stem from feuds or roles that are decades old. Or perhaps the conflict may simply be a result of family members facing so many emotionally charged decisions about a person they love. Whether it’s deciding when to take the keys, move a parent into a facility, or how to manage finances – tension is likely for many.
But how do you know when the tension is too much? And if it is, what do you do about it? If you feel like you have tried everything, but just can’t seem to come to an agreement on things perhaps it is time to call a mediator. Professional mediators are trained in conflict resolution and act as a neutral party to help facilitate the decision making process. They are available to hear all sides of the story and help diffuse the situation. Mediation is typically cheaper than litigation so it is often a favorable choice. Ideally, a mediator will help reduce the overall tension and keep the family focused on the goal of doing what is in the best interest of their loved one.
If family relationships feel like they are on the brink of destruction it may be time to consider a mediator. It just may benefit everyone involved.
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Category: Elder Mediation
We all know being a caregiver can take an emotional toll. Unfortunately, it can also take a heavy financial toll. According to a recent Caring.com survey over 60% of caregivers worry about the impact care-giving is having on their savings. In addition, 42% are spending more than $5,000 a year on care. How is that possible? Many senior services are paid for privately (not through the government or insurance). Long-term care can quickly add up whether it’s in a facility or at home. Groceries, medical bills, and long distance phone calls are just a few examples of the costs that are often associated with care-giving (not to mention the cost of a facility itself). Another hard reality is that the caregiver is often forced to take time off from work, change jobs, or leave work all together in order to manage their care-giving responsibilities. This loss of income can deeply impact the financial situation.
So what can be done to prepare for this? Perhaps the best thing you can do is talk openly with your parents about finances before it becomes a necessity. Review investments, assets, income, and expenses. Know where they keep important documents. If necessary, consider switching to joint accounts so that you have access when needed. Most importantly listen to your parents wishes. Listen to their vision of their long term care and work together to develop a plan that will financially allow for it.
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Losing a parent is incredibly difficult. In addition to managing your own grief you may be faced with helping your children and your surviving parent cope with theirs. Seeing your parent in pain as they try to navigate their way through the mourning process is heart-wrenching. Perhaps now more than ever they will need you to be there for them. This is especially true after the initial burst of support from other family and friends falls away.
While your parent my appear to be holding things together well initially it’s important to remember it can take some time for the reality of things to set in. It may not be until everyone returns to their separate, normal lives that your parent truly gets a sense of how quiet the house is without their partner. The mundane tasks of day to day life may begin to emphasize how different and lonely life is without their loved one. Making yourself a continual presence in your parent’s life can help. Try cooking together, sharing dinner, going for walks, or even just sitting together. Sometimes just being there can mean more than words ever could. Reminiscing about old times and going through pictures together can also be helpful once you’re both ready.
It’s also important to remember that losing a spouse initially can be a very frightening time. Your parent may be wondering how they can survive without their spouse especially if they were very dependent on them. This may be the time to develop some very practical solutions. Maybe that means teaching your parent how to balance a checkbook, cook, or grocery shop. It may mean figuring out transportation arrangements for doctor’s appointments, etc. if your surviving parent cannot drive on his or her own. Whatever the case sit down with your parent and develop a plan.
This is also the time to keep an eye out for depression or illness. Pay attention to changes in eating habits, behavior, or medication management. If it seems your parent is really having a hard time grieving encourage them to seek support through other family and friends, counselors, or spiritual leaders. Let them know they are not alone.
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The thought of taking keys from an elderly parent is uncomfortable for most. So uncomfortable in fact that many avoid even having a conversation about it. That’s because it can be one of the hardest conversations to have. Driving may be one of the last things that allows a parent to feel independent and self-sufficient.
While it may be a difficult conversation it is also an important one. As parents get older they may face a number of new physical and mental challenges that can interfere with or prohibit safe driving. Declines in vision, hearing, and mobility can significantly impact driving ability. Side effects from medications can also interfere. Cognitive issues are no exception. Memory loss and confusion can create a dangerous situation on the road.
So how do you know when it’s time to consider taking the keys? Watch your parents driving closely. Do reaction times seem slower? Are they drifting in the lane or easily startled or distracted? Also, listen for stories about getting lost, confused, or recent accidents (no matter how minor).
If you’re seeing warning signs and feel it’s time to have a conversation with your parent keep in mind it will likely be hard for them to hear. Stay calm while you show your concern. Try to imagine things from their perspective. If necessary, involve other family members or providers in the conversation. Let them know it’s coming from a place of love and concern – not judgement. It can also be helpful to work together to develop a plan that will provide alternative transportation methods to ensure continued mobility.
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As noted previously, caring for an elderly family member can be incredibly stressful. Often times family conflict arises as a result of the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual challenges family members face – both individually and collectively. If the conflict gets out of hand an objective third party mediator may be necessary. However, there are steps individuals can take to manage the family conflict before rising to that level of need. Here are a few tips to try to keep in mind as you navigate the process:
1. Listen. Truly, honestly listen. Let family members know you are hearing what they say and are trying to understand their point of view.
2. Respect. Remember that emotions are running high for everyone. Feelings of anger, guilt, hurt, fear, confusion, etc. are likely at the root of what different family members are saying and doing. With this in mind it may be easier to show some restraint and some respect for others which can ultimately help to diffuse the situation.
3. Communicate. Share your feelings openly. Revisit them when necessary. As situations change family members need to come together and communicate new problems or decisions. Break them down piece by piece so that everyone can understand what is at stake. Refer back to tips 1 and 2 when needed.
No matter what stage of caring for an elderly relative a family is currently in it’s important to remember it doesn’t always have to come down to “my way” or “your way.” Sometimes middle ground can be found when actively working towards managing conflict and working together.
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Sibling rivalry begins in childhood, but unfortunately it doesn’t always end there. Faced with the challenges of caring for an aging parent adult siblings often fall back into traditional family roles. The “responsible one” may automatically fall into the role of the primary caregiver. Maybe the “difficult one” won’t pitch in as much as the other siblings want him to or the “successful one” promptly puts a check in the mail. Ideally, the roles would all come together in a way that would compliment each other. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Being thrust into this situation can stir up old rivalries and emotions. This often causes conflict.
Conflict can also come about when siblings disagree about the type of care parents should receive. Sometimes siblings are fundamentally opposed to certain types of facilities. Other times the disagreement may be a result of differing perspectives on the level of care needed. For example, an out of town sibling may not realize how serious the situation is or how great the need is. Parents will often put on a good show when the out of town child comes to visit – leaving them with a skewed view of the parent’s condition. Meanwhile, the sibling serving as the primary caregiver gets a different perspective day in and day out. The financial aspect of the care can also lead to conflict. There may be widely different views on how to spend the parent’s money.
Depending on the level of conflict the best course of action may be to enlist the help of an objective third party either through a case manager, social worker, therapist, or mediator. One of the best things family members can do to prevent things from getting to that point is to sit down and have the hard conversations with parents ahead of time. Find out what their preferences are in terms of care. If that’s not possible then ideally siblings would be able to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses and come together to divide responsibilities and help bear the load. For example, out of town siblings may be able to pitch in financially, during their vacation time to offer respite to full-time caregivers, or by calling each day to offer emotional support (both to the parent and the caregiver). Siblings who live nearby may be able to divide assistance into areas such as food, laundry, cleaning, paying bills, transportation, medication, etc. This can help reduce the risk of caregiver burnout. Working together will ultimately work for the good of the parent and reduce the tension in the individual lives of the siblings involved.
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Being a caregiver is never an easy job. It can take its toll physically, emotionally, and financially. The process of watching a parent lose their independence is hard enough. That coupled with the fact that you probably have a number or other responsibilities – work, small children, a relationship to maintain – can easily result in significant stress. It can leave you feeling torn and exhausted.
It’s important to remember that in addition to caring for your parent you need to take care of yourself. Watch for signs of stress. Do you constantly feel exhausted? Have you experienced a significant amount of weight gain or loss recently? Does it seem impossible to get enough sleep or social interaction outside of your daily duties? Is your mind consumed with worry, anger, or guilt? Maybe you just feel incredibly sad and overwhelmed. These are all signs of caregiver stress and can ultimately lead to burnout. This can impact your overall physical and mental health. Some studies show that caregivers are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, long-term medical problems, weakened immunity, and obesity.
If you notice signs of caregiver stress it’s important to take action. Enlisting the help of others can work towards reducing your overall stress. Many find it helpful to delegate some responsibilities to others. Maybe there is someone else willing to do the grocery shopping or sit and visit with your parent while you take an evening off. Find a support group or caregiver resources in your area. Try to establish some respite care so that you can do something for yourself at least once a week. Recognize that you just can’t do it all and there’s no such thing as the “perfect caregiver.” Give yourself permission to take care of yourself – not just your parent!
- Pre-Marital Counseling