What to Do When Families Disagree on Long-Term Care for Aging Parents

Family members talking to each other

Caring for elderly parents can be stressful. The decisions that need to be made regarding care can lead to conflict among family members. Adult children, siblings and relatives may not see eye to eye about practical and financial matters. And sibling rivalries and family tensions that have nothing to do with the current situation may rise to the surface.

When Caregivers Feel Overburdened

For logistical reasons, it’s usually the adult child who lives closest who will take on caring for elderly parents. Family members who live out of town or aren’t regularly present may not understand the time and effort expended on care. They may only see Mom or Dad when everything is going smoothly and doubt they’re as sick or infirm as made out to be. The person who became the caregiver by default feels resentful they’re doing all the work and not receiving enough support.  

Caregivers who’ve taken on the bulk of responsibility shouldn’t be shy to ask other family members for help. Spell out the specific needs so there are no misunderstandings. While family members who don’t live nearby won’t be able to provide hands-on help, they can support you in other ways, for example, by paying for certain medical expenses or providing respite care. Families often turn to the respite care options at our Radford Green health services center. It  enables caregivers to rest and recharge while their loved one is in good hands with our compassionate healthcare team members.

When Family Members Feel Excluded

The situation is reversed when the hands-on caregiver leaves other family members in the dark when caring for elderly parents. They exclude family members from decision-making or limit access to the older loved one. Family members feel left out and isolated.

If relationships are strained, but it’s clear the senior loved one is in good hands, don’t provoke a confrontation. Keep in contact with your senior loved one over the phone or with regularly scheduled visits. Be alert to opportunities to help, and offer assistance with tasks like transportation or spending time with your loved one so the caregiver can take a break.

Setting Responsibilities

If family members don’t get along, it’s unrealistic to expect them to set aside their differences now. However, resolving certain situations requires gathering family members together. As the family discusses what to do, it’s important not to be pulled into bickering or taking sides. Keep the discussion focused on what needs to be done in the best interests of Mom or Dad. Encourage family members to divide up responsibilities and set a schedule where each person is responsible for a task, ticks it off the list, and communicates this with the others. 

  • Who’ll be the lead contact with the loved one’s care team?
  • Who’ll be responsible for keeping all family members up to date?
  • How can other family members divide up their time to spend with the senior loved one?
  • Which family member(s) makes the decisions on medical treatments?
  • Which family member(s) will take responsibility for long-term care and/or end-of-life decisions?
  • How is communication handled if there’s an accident or medical emergency?
  • How will family members contribute financially to their older loved one’s care?

Financial Disagreements

Caring for elderly parents comes with financial commitments and unexpected costs. These range from paying for daily costs like groceries and utilities, to medical and home care costs, to tests, physician visits, and prescriptions. Family members can be unwilling or unable to share this financial burden and disagree over how much should be spent on their loved one’s care. Conflict can also arise over matters of inheritance, property, financial accounts, and valuables such as jewelry. Family members can also become resentful if the caregiver is reimbursing themselves from their loved one’s funds or using the money to take time away from caregiving.

Seek Support

If family members can’t reach agreement when caring for elderly parents, it helps to bring in a neutral third party to mediate. For example, if the family is finding it difficult to determine whether their loved one should stay at home or move into a care community, ask a professional with experience in care assessments to weigh in. At Radford Green, our health services center, we offer professional guidance so you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. We can assist in assessing your loved one’s home, suggest modifications, and discuss the residential options available to them.We’ll help you decide if home health services will support your loved one still living at home, or whether long-term care options such as assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing are more suitable.

If the dispute is over money, an estate planner or attorney can clarify financial matters and resolve any legal issues. If family members can’t agree on an older loved one’s medical care, invite a medical professional to go over their loved one’s health condition and potential needs for short- and long-term care. This gives family members an opportunity to ask questions and become better informed.

Sedgebrook: Supporting Your Loved One and You

If you’re a family caregiver or a family member deciding on caregiving solutions for aging parents, we can help. You can contact us today by calling 847-865-8811.