All too often as a parent ages, adult children come into conflict with their parent(s) and with each other. There are many issues that trigger family conflict, including:
- – Change in circumstances of elder (i.e., decline)
- – Health/medical care/financial decisions
- – Powers of Attorney – who makes what decisions
- – Living arrangements/LTC decisions
- – Communication issues
- – Inheritance disputes
- – Changing family dynamics (i.e., 2nd marriage…)
- – Safety vs autonomy of elder (i.e., driving)
- – Caregiver burnout/”Swooping”
And of course, these new stressors trigger old disputes siblings may have been holding onto since childhood, making today’s conflicts even more fraught with emotion and upset. The worst case scenario is to end up in court.
How can you tell if you need to get professional help to mediate your family conflict?
First, determine if your family conflict is constructive or destructive. When conflict is handled constructively, there is open dialogue about all the issues. Problems are brought to light and solved simply. All family members understand that the person they are advocating for is the elder, and individuals support each other in their efforts to provide practical assistance.
Family members also respect the needs of those who may be doing the heavy lifting in caretaking and make sure they get relief to avoid burnout. Relationships become stronger as everyone is able to communicate their concerns openly and honestly.
But when conflict is destructive, priorities are unclear and barriers go up between family members, lowering everyone’s morale, including that of the elder. Productivity is low, which may sound like a funny thing to say, but think about your conflict – has it been going on for some time with no progress toward a resolution? This indicates low productivity, an inability to commit to a decision and move forward. Are family members acting out and injuring their relationships with each other? If this is the case, it’s time to find professional mediation before it’s too late!
There are different types of professionals that can guide your family through these disputes. You could contact an elder mediator, a geriatric care manager, or even an elder law attorney that also offers mediation services. Bringing in a third party can put the focus back where it belongs – on your elder parent’s needs.