Navigating Family Tension While Caring for a Senior

  • June 10, 2019

When an aging parent needs help with personal care and the activities of daily life, it is common for family tensions to heat up. The eldest daughter or the adult child who lives the closest to the elder typically bears most of the caregiving burden.

Siblings who live farther away might not see the older loved one as often. Because of that, they may be in denial about how much care a parent requires. This can cause disagreements that sometimes lead to permanent rifts among family members.

What can you do to minimize conflict in your family?

We have a few tips you might find helpful.

Working Together to Care for a Senior Loved One

1. Appreciate the primary caregiver

One sibling generally becomes the primary caregiver when a parent needs assistance. Siblings who are less involved may feel guilty for not pulling their weight. Ironically, this can cause them to act in ways you wouldn’t expect. Many times, they become overly critical of and disrespectful to the sibling who is acting as primary caregiver instead of being supportive.

If you aren’t the primary caregiver, it’s important to be mindful of your behavior. Be kind and respectful to the sibling who is doing their best to care for your parent. Show your appreciation by sending the caregiver personal notes, paying for respite care so they can take a break, and by taking every opportunity to say “thank you.”

2. Be realistic about your parent’s needs

Siblings who live farther away or aren’t as involved in a parent’s care often fail to accept how much a parent’s health has deteriorated. This is especially true if a parent’s decline has been rapid.

They may make statements such as, “I would have come home if I had known how bad she really was.” To the primary caregiver, this can feel like an accusation. Instead of negative statements, try to keep the conversation focused on today and what needs to be done right now to help a parent.

3. Put your parent’s best interests first

Everyone in the family likely has their own idea about what is best for an aging loved one. Unfortunately, these opinions often differ. This can hamper moving forward with important care solutions.

To avoid conflict, involve your parent in important decisions. If that isn’t possible, try to use any legal documents the senior created to express their wishes for future care as your guideline, even if this isn’t the direction you’d like their care to go.

If all else fails consider hiring a geriatric care manager, also known as an aging life care professional, to help you navigate your way through difficult decisions.

4. Involve your senior loved one

If the solution you arrive at is to begin searching for an assisted living community, include your senior loved one in the process as much as possible. While you might not want to overwhelm them with too many small details, giving them a voice in bigger decisions is vital.

For example, the two of you could start your search online by visiting senior living websites together. While you might want to screen out communities that are not a good fit on your own, you should make every effort to bring your loved one along on visits to make the final decision.

We hope these tips aid you and your siblings in finding ways to work together on an aging parent’s behalf.

If you have questions about senior care and what might be the best fit for your loved one, we’d be happy to help you find answers. Call Five Star Senior Living today at (617) 796-8387!


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