Aging Parents and Tension in the Family
Some families remind us of the “Waltons” and others are chock full of seething rage and bickering siblings. Regardless of the context of the family aging parents and their needs require attention and evaluation.
So, you come from the “Walton” prototype. Call a family meeting, assess the parental needs, get feedback from all parties-including the parents, develop an action plan, serve up some assignments, and get to work. In a few weeks have a backyard picnic or fondue cheese party in front of the fireplace (depending on the season), report on progress made, then move on to the next items on the list. Pretty easy and straight forward. 😉
Dream on–it’s never that easy!
But then you have a family that is divided by separation or divorce. You want to work things out for your parent, your step-siblings won’t even discuss with you any future plans for their natural parent, but the finances are co-mingled and there’s no way the parents want to be separated from each other.
Your father worked all his life and left your mother a nice bundle of money to live on after his death. She remarried someone with children of his own. Now your mother has died leaving that money to her second husband (your step-father) and your step-siblings feel that the money is to be split among all of the kids when their father dies.
This can get really sticky. All the more reason to get the dialogue going as soon as possible. It may be an unpleasant scenario to confront, but it will be much darker, steeped in recriminations and anger, and possibly end up in the courts if there is no resolution before your parents die.
Is this an uncomfortable subject for you? Probably. Get over it!
Here are some tips.
Start thinking about the subject and assessing the family members.
Who is the calmest or most respected member of the family?
Approach that person and ask if they would be willing to call a family meeting.
Or set up individual meetings and approach the subject of a family meeting with each one.
Establish common ground with your step-siblings and have some fun times that involve the whole family.
It is obvious, but include the parents in these events.
Start by asking general questions about your parent’s health while the group is together.
Move on to more complicated issues over time as comfort levels improve.
If you can’t make any headway contact an Elder Care Advocate or Family therapist and have them moderate a family meeting.
None of this is easy for any family, but old rivalries, outdated grievances, and grudges need to be put aside in order to deal with the needs of aging members of the family and the care required or the decisions to be made. Step above those who would rather continue the family “drama” and make an attempt to get to the heart of the issues that need to be dealt with.
I’ve left lots of areas hanging in this post. Help me out here. Let’s get a discussion going on ways to overcome the tension in your families so you can deal with the issues facing aging parents. I challenge you to comment and share your ideas!