Deciding on the best way forward for the care of your elderly parents can be difficult and often causes family disagreements. Old tensions often rise up and while we want our elderly parents to be safe and happy, it’s not always easy to get a consensus within the family.
In this guide, we explore ways to reach an agreement amongst the family on care decisions for ageing parents, such as facilitating open conversations and holding family meetings.
Family disputes over elderly parents’ care
Caring for ageing parents can be a challenging task. Adding siblings into the mix can be a recipe for conflict and frustration as everyone’s opinions, thoughts, and attitudes about what’s best for their elderly loved ones might differ.
As you and your siblings talk and try to work together, tensions can arise when questions like this come up:
- Who’s the primary carer for elderly parents?
- What do we do with uncooperative elderly parents?
- What’s the best care option for our parents?
- Who gets the final decision about elderly parental care?
If you and your siblings are experiencing family disputes over elderly parent’s care plans, there’s no need to worry. It is quite common for siblings with elderly parents to feel tensions and encounter conflict regarding their care.
One of the most significant sources of conflict we see at Trinity Homecare is around the duty of care for ageing parents. Some adult children might think it is the family’s responsibility to care for Mum and Dad, while others feel it’s not their job. Some might think that putting your parents in a nursing home is sufficient, while others believe home care is the preferred option.
Geographical location can also add to the conflict for siblings. If one sibling lives closer to their parents than another, those farther away may feel less responsibility and be less involved. The closer adult child might feel guilty if they don’t or can’t care for their parents. If they do provide care, they may experience caregiver burnout.
So, how can caring adult children navigate these family disputes over elderly parents’ care in order to reach beneficial outcomes?
How to approach reaching an agreement about parental care
While there are common themes to family disagreements regarding elderly parents’ care, each family and person is unique. Depending on the situation, the sources of conflict and the family members involved, the approach you take to resolution may differ.
When decision-making around elderly parents’ care gets difficult, it’s best to plan for conversations or meetings that can bring the best out in everyone involved. Before approaching your siblings, parents or extended family for an open conversation about your loved one’s care plans bear these points in mind:
- A diagnosis of dementia does not mean your elderly loved one should be deprived of choices, especially when the person is still capable of communicating their wishes. If your elderly loved one has mental capacity they should always be involved in discussions and any decisions are, ultimately, theirs. Read our guide on Caring For Someone with Dementia to learn more about mental capacity.
- Losing sight of what your elderly loved one wants and fixating on what you think they want or what you think is best will only lead to strife. Ask your elderly loved one about all available options for necessary care. When it’s safe to do so, and your parent has mental capacity, respect their right to decide their care.
- Set aside old sibling conflicts from past times to focus on your elderly parent’s current safety, comfort and personal wishes. This only works if you put aside old grievances and agree to focus on what’s best for your parents.
How to talk to elderly parents about their care needs
If you need to reach an agreement about parental care, and only yourself and your parents are involved, the best approach is always to start by having open discussions with them. Avoid trying to force a decision or press your opinions on them.
For many elderly people, planning can be challenging, especially around the topic of living arrangements and care needs. It can be frightening for elderly people to think of what the future may bring. Be aware of this and approach all discussions with sensitivity and empathy.
These tips can help you have a constructive conversation:
- Choose a good time when everyone is calm, not stressed or distracted and has the energy and focus and engage fully.
- Pay attention and listen to the concerns of your parents. Understanding their feelings and concerns allows you to allay fears and answer any concerns they have.
- Discuss care options together as a family, discussing the pros and cons of each.
- Be prepared for push-back, do not force your ideas and opinions. Care planning is a very sensitive and emotional topic, often causing the elderly to fear a loss of independence. Be sure to make them feel in control and respected.
- Be patient, it is likely that several conversations will be needed, so give them time to consider.
If you are able, start these conversations with your elderly parents before urgent care needs arise. Early planning and discussions give the opportunity to consider options such as moving elderly parents nearer to where you live and the type of elderly care your parents would like if their needs become greater.
Reaching agreements amongst a larger group, such as several siblings and parents, will be more difficult. Holding a family meeting in an open non-judgemental manner may be the best way for everyone to be heard.
How to prepare for the care conversation with parents or siblings
Whether you choose to have an informal discussion with parents or a more formal family meeting with several family members, you should plan for the conversation in advance.
Here are some tips to help you:
Prepare in advance
Make sure you know what you’re going to say beforehand, and be sure to keep focused on the purpose of the conversation – to reach an agreement about your parent’s care. Take ideas from how past serious conversations have gone with the family members you’re planning on talking to.
Choose the right time and place
Arrange the conversation or meeting with the family members beforehand. So they can also prepare what they want to say, and so they’re not distracted by other commitments or in a disruptive environment. Avoid significant family events and places with alcohol, which can fuel emotions.
Preparing for the worst will most likely make you nervous and react negatively during the conversation. Focus on the positive outcomes that could result from the conversation. Try to approach the meeting or conversation with a solution-focused perspective.
Set a time frame and a focused goal
If you’re worried about a difficult conversation going off track, this can aid its progress and effectiveness. For instance, allotting an hour for discussion and allowing for an extension, if necessary. Making the goal of the conversation clear to all involved can help to keep the topic of the conversation on track.
Agree on expectations and boundaries beforehand
If you are expecting conflict or a difficult conversation, try to agree on how to keep the conversation positive and what behaviours or reactions will end the conversation. For example, agree that to keep the discussion constructive, there will be no shouting, personal attacks or interrupting. Just as with conversations directly with your elderly parents, don’t expect one conversation to be sufficient to resolve conflicts and agree on a care plan.
Be prepared to involve a third party
Consider bringing in a third party if you can’t have productive conversations. The third party could be an official mediator or a trusted and respected family friend. A third party will help facilitate and guide family discussions while seeking what’s best for your parents. Since they don’t have any emotional or relational issues with you, your siblings, or your parents, a third party can offer outside advice that’s helpful and constructive.
How to hold a family meeting to agree on parent’s care
If your situation requires a family gathering, for example, meeting with siblings to agree on a way forward regarding your parent’s care, these tips can help you facilitate an effective meeting:
- Meet on neutral ground, like a quiet coffee shop, or if you all live far apart then on video call at a mutually agreed time – be aware video calls make it much harder to read body language and to express and understand emotions.
- Be empathic – Make an effort to understand each family member’s feelings and opinions, being conscious not to prioritise your own interests.
- Find someone to mediate if you anticipate difficulty – a family friend respected by all in the meeting can be very effective in keeping emotions in check and focused on the goal of the meeting.
- Start with acknowledging common ground – Set the scene for your meeting. You all want the best for your parents, their safety, comfort and happiness if of utmost importance. There may also be common ground around feelings of sadness and loss, worries about the future and/or guilt about one’s ability to care for ageing parents.
- Have some specific topics to discuss so you don’t get sidetracked, and agree on these topics with all attendees before the meeting.
- Keep the meeting solutions focused – if conflict and disagreement arises acknowledge these concerns and issues while being careful to stick to the facts. Then move on to solution-focused conversations quickly.
- Try to work as a team – we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and different things we feel able or unable to take on. When discussing solutions and sharing sibling responsibility focus on people’s strengths and how each person can contribute (if they want to).
- Keep the conversation going – It may take several meetings or regular conversations in order to reach a solution. Don’t force quick decisions at the expense of other family members feeling pushed aside and unheard.
- Finish on a positive, provide reassurance to all – such as the opportunity to keep the conversation going and show respect and gratitude to all attendees for their contributions.
Tips on how to facilitate open conversations to agree on parental care
During your conversation with family members try to remain calm, factual and positive.
Keep these tips in mind to help you navigate facilitating an open conversation:
- Be patient and respect everyone’s time to speak and their opinions
- Ask questions and don’t dictate
- Listen to understand, not to respond or defend your opinion
- Be aware of family dynamics and how they might have changed
- Keep an open mind
- Be prepared to negotiate and compromise
- Express appreciation and give recognition
Above all else, remember that the purpose of your conversation is to reach an agreement that is the best for your parent’s safety, comfort and happiness.
How home care can be a solution
Amongst all the choices and personal opinions, there is one care option for the elderly that is often preferred – home care. When surveyed, nearly 75% of older adults state that given the option they would prefer to remain living at home and according to the Live-In Care Hub, 97% say they want to avoid residential care homes if they become ill or less able to cope with everyday life. With statistics like this, it’s comforting to know there are many options available to the elderly to continue living at home.
Home care can be the perfect solution for elderly loved ones who find living alone increasingly difficult. Whether it be short regular visits with visiting care or full-time live-in care providing round-the-clock support, home care offers a range of options to suit all health needs and personal wishes.
When exploring care options for your loved one, weigh up the benefits of home care against other options. For example, for an elderly couple living together, full-time live-in care is almost always cheaper than residential care and fosters independence in the place we love most – home.
How to arrange care with Trinity Homecare
If you think home care could be a solution for your elderly parents, get in touch with us today. We offer a free no-obligation enquiry service, including a free at-home needs assessment with our experienced care team.