1/11/2022 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Aging is a fact of life, in ourselves and our loved ones. Adult children can hope that their parents will enter the senior years free of major issues, but the aging process for parents is often not so seamless. Problems often arise regarding health care, housing, caregiving, finances, and more. When problems arise, families may have to make difficult and emotional decisions, which may result in family conflicts over elderly parents.

Since children want what is best for their parents, they typically work together to ensure it. But in some cases, they disagree over what is “best” and fail to find common ground, putting their loved one’s safety at risk by not agreeing on any care.

How can caring children navigate these family conflicts over elderly parents in order to reach beneficial outcomes?

5 ways to manage family conflicts over elderly parents

Each involved child can be a caregiver to their parents. The path to resolving the issues of caring for aging parents (and maintaining positive sibling relationships!) can be found by building a teamwork attitude.

1. Hold family meetings before a crisis arises

Because conversations about aging parents can be difficult, many adult children put them off. But postponing them until things get critical is not the answer. Start holding meetings before your parents need help. Include the parents in the discussion and ask them how they imagine their life will be as they get older. Find out what roles they want each of the siblings to assume in caring for them. Plan to meet regularly and more frequently as the situation changes.

2. Listen to everyone’s viewpoint and preferences

In addition to the parents expressing their wants and needs, each adult child should share their feelings, concerns, and preferences.

In determining each person’s responsibility, for example, some might not feel comfortable providing active care for a parent, while others may not want to deal with the parents’ finances. Having these conversations makes it possible to find a role for each sibling that they will feel at ease performing and allows them to contribute in some way.

3. Be aware of family dynamics and how they might have changed

Realize that your siblings have changed since childhood. Also, aging parents could have difficulty seeing their adult children as peers. Some children hold on to grudges or resentments into adulthood and remain estranged from parents or siblings.

Family dynamics can be complicated, making it harder for everyone to participate equally in parents’ care. Try to develop a plan that considers these dynamics and involves each family member to their comfort level.

4. Stress the need to be flexible

Your parents’ care needs will change over time, so family caregivers should be flexible and prepared to contribute more time and/or financial support. It’s best to discuss these possibilities in the early years of care and during regularly scheduled meetings. Also, talk about the option of hiring a professional caregiver when necessary, to relieve some of the burdens.

5. Express appreciation and give recognition

Siblings are much more likely to work smoothly together when they feel their efforts are appreciated. Thanking your siblings for being involved in your parents’ care provides positive reinforcement and often results in even more involvement from your siblings. This can be especially true if, for reasons such as geography or life circumstances, one person is carrying more of the responsibility.

When family conflicts get unmanageable

Sometimes, families can’t seem to reach consensus. Discussions become arguments. No satisfactory actions are taken, while a stalemate leaves parents inadequately cared for. In extreme cases, families may turn to legal channels to solve disputes. In family conflicts over elderly parents’ care, elder mediation and eldercaring coordination can help families reach beneficial decisions, without resorting to the courts.

Elder mediation

When communication between siblings breaks down, elder mediation can help resolve disputes outside of the courtroom. Mediation provides an avenue for adult children to participate in a decision-making forum where an experienced mediator helps them move forward from their conflict.

Eldercaring coordination

Mediation is completely voluntary, and it works well when everyone involved is willing to participate, set differences aside, and find solutions. However, when families find it impossible to agree to anything, a court can order eldercaring coordination to ensure the aging parent is safe and receiving the proper care.

Aging inevitably brings many challenges. When siblings and parents work together thoughtfully and cooperatively, they can help ensure that family is a source of support, not one of life’s challenges.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff