Family Dynamics & Resolution

Caregivers and their loved ones often disagree when it comes to managing their care.

Fights can break out over division of labor, availability, finances and many other factors. Those differences of opinion can also give rise to new caregiving challenges as they exert even more pressure on the family unit. 

Family First's Care Experts have years of experience navigating these tough conversations and finding a path forward that neutralizes conflict and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Ask us about:

+  Challenging family dynamics
+  Unwilling and non-compliant care recipients 
+  Consensus building
+  Family meetings

Handling Disagreements with Parents

Parents often have specific expectations about how and how much their children should help them with yard work, paying bills and picking up medications. Children, though, are busy with jobs, relationships, and childcare and have limited time for additional responsibilities. This mismatch between expectations and availability can lead to disappointment. In the worst-case scenario, the parent feels hurt and angry that the child is neglecting them. The child typically responds by feeling criticized. What should be a time of life when child and parent draw closer together through cooperating with one another instead becomes one of resentment and arguing.

There are several possible ways for aging parents and their adult children to create greater understanding: Asset 6-1

Put expectations and limitations on the table:
Parents sometimes don't state what they expect from their adult children, as if they believe their children should read their minds or just know. But those children may be unaware, at least to some degree, of these unspoken expectations that shape their parents' judgements of them. At the same time, children often don't fully inform their parents about how many directions they already feel pulled in. To lay the groundwork for compromise, parents and children need to start with a frank conversation spelling out their expectations and limitations.

Aim for what's possible:
There is no perfect caregiving. It is always an imperfect trial-and-error process of finding new solutions and often compromises to changing circumstances. It's that practical good sense that needs to be brought to negotiations between a parent and child. They should talk together about a caregiving plan that can last that accounts for both a parent's needs and child's availability. Anything less realistic may only be empty promises leading to more disappointment.

Set aside the past:
Sometimes, parents' expectations of what their child should do for them are based on what they did for their parents during their caregiving years earlier in their lives. Receiving an equal amount of care as they once gave strikes them as fair. But many of these parents were not also working full- or part-time jobs. They often don't grasp the multiple economic and family pressures their own children are now experiencing. It's best if the parents set their expectations on today's, not yesterday's, realities.

Agree to disagree:
Aging parents and adult children often disagree on some things. The exact details of the caregiving plan may be one of them. Blaming each other only leads to bitterness. A better approach is to agree to disagree on all the details but find common areas on which they can work together.

If children feel appreciated by their parents for what they can do, then they will be more likely to express understanding and regret for what they can't do and then to try all the harder.

Authored by Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist, family therapist and a Principal for Health Management Associates. He is the author of two self-books on family caregiving and a monthly column on family caregiving for AARP.org.