Caregiving for a parent or making decisions on behalf of them is an arduous journey that can be physically and emotionally demanding and includes juggling paperwork, planning and family finances. Often family dysfunction can become more apparent when a life change occurs for a person’s parents. When faced with a difficult decision, some people react more out of fear and emotions than out of logical thinking, many times without realizing it. This is not uncommon, and in the senior living industry, we encounter this frequently.
Siblings may fall victim to this scenario whether it is due to pent up feelings or differences of opinions. While the underlying issues vary depending on the family, the outcome is nearly always the same. Additional stress, hurt feelings, and negativity become components of an already trying situation.
So what can you do to help prevent this dysfunction from spiraling out of control? Here are some suggested steps to help mitigate the stress.
Start By Acknowledging Differences
When discussing decisions pertaining to the situation, it’s important to acknowledge the differences between you and your siblings in a positive way. Try to approach the situation with an honest and realistic approach. Just because you are “family” does not mean you have similar points of view, or even ways of solving it. Accepting that you will likely have differing opinions allows you to prepare yourself mentally for conflicts that may arise.
Act In Kindness
When in doubt, treat your family with kindness, grace, and compassion They are feeling the emotional and physical strain of the decision just as you are. It’s always good to keep the Golden Rule in mind in these situations: "Treat others how you would like to be treated." Although this may be the absolute last thing you feel like doing at the time, it can go a long way toward avoiding strife.
Keep the Goal in Mind
Dealing with a difficult family member does not mean you have to be best friends with them. Understand that this situation and decision making is just the beginning of a long journey. Keep the end goal in mind when communicating with them. Is your goal to keep your parents at home? Is it to move your parents into assisted living, memory care or independent living? No matter what the situation specifics are, your common goal with your sibling is the same: you love your parents and want them to be safe and happy. Don't lose sight of that!
Seek Professional Guidance
If you experience strained communication with your family, consider seeking outside counseling. It often helps to have an outside perspective on your situation to bring clarity to both parties. Counselors can provide you with the insight to better achieve family harmony and peace with whatever decision you pursue moving forward. If you don't have a therapist in mind, assisted living, independent or memory care communities will be able to provide you local recommendations.
In stressful times, it's important to understand that it's not uncommon to experience conflict with members of your family. You are not alone. Use this complication as a stepping stone to improve communication and strengthen your relationship for the future.