I am a nurse practitioner for a very busy group of primary care physicians. The majority of our patients have been with us for many years, and an increasing number of them are older retirees. We find ourselves caught in the middle of conflict between their family members quite often these days. Most of the time these family conflicts stem from disagreements about what type of senior care is best for their loved one.
Since you’ve worked with families one-on-one for so long, I wondered if you had any suggestions for dealing with family conflict? We need to figure out how to resolve family conflicts and help our patients get the care they need.
How to Resolve Family Conflict
Dealing with family conflict over a senior loved one’s care can indeed be very difficult. Spouses, siblings, and others involved in the caregiving process often have very different ideas on what is best. Finding common ground is tough to do sometimes.
Adult children often experience the changes in a parent’s health differently. Spouses and adult children who live closer are more involved in the day-to-day demands of caregiving. For them, it is tough to deny that things have changed.
For faraway family members, however, it is easy to refuse to accept there is a serious problem. They might call their senior loved one to see how they are doing only to hear directly from them that everything is “fine” and they “don’t need any help.”
A few ways you can help mediate family conflicts and help families arrive at solutions include:
Reminding them of their shared goal: When the situation is stressful and everyone’s emotions are high, it’s easy for conflicts to escalate quickly. Things are said in anger that often makes family conflict resolution even more difficult. Try to bring everyone back to the reason you are all talking: to find a care solution that will allow the senior to live their best quality of life. If the senior is able to participate, make sure to include him or her. Adult children typically behave in a more positive way when a parent participates in the discussion.
Talk it through: Encourage the family members who are involved with hands-on care to make a list of what assistance the senior requires on a routine basis and to create a family meeting agenda. Doing so can help faraway loved ones gain a clearer picture of the situation. Then suggest the family sit down together—even if it is via Skype—to discuss the senior’s needs, individually and as a whole, to see what senior care solutions are viable.
Encourage respectfulness: In most families, 1 or 2 adult children bear the burden of caregiving duties. It is common for them to feel frustrated, resentful, and downright angry toward those who don’t help. Remind everyone that it is okay to share those feelings but to try not to lose their temper while doing so. It might also help if you encourage faraway family members to visit in-person. That will give the primary caregiver an opportunity to take a break, while allowing the long distance siblings to see the day-to-day challenges firsthand.
Family mediation: If all else fails, you can suggest the family enlist the services of an elder care adviser or a family mediator. They have experience navigating difficult family situations and coming to a conclusion that is in the senior’s best interest.
We also encourage you to get to know the Griswold Home Care team members who work in your local area. These dedicated professionals can help families with services ranging from personal care to meal preparation and light housekeeping.