It can be a horrendously heartbreaking situation for anyone who is middle-aged, yet still trying to navigate being a responsible grown-up, to be suddenly thrust into the trenches of caregiving, not just for their children, but also for their elderly parents. And, no matter how much you and your siblings adore your mam and dad, it’s understandable that the sudden health deterioration of a once-strong, robust adult can result in everyone experiencing sadness, frustration, remorse and even anger.
In addition, given our healthcare system’s lengthy consultant waiting lists and annual winter trolley crisis, it’s inevitable that the added stress of trying to navigate a medical management programme for a darling loved one who can no longer always advocate for themselves will potentially make for an emotionally and physically wearing scenario for any family.
Now, as one or all of the above set of circumstances can probably result in a conflict situation or three between siblings, the fact is nobody wants things to escalate to the extent a once loving and united family are now at eachother’s throats, because a family at war is not good for your elderly parent’s deteriorating mental or physical health. So, with that in mind, we’ve put together what we believe are five ‘peace-keeping’ bullet points. We hope they’re helpful.
1: Good communication is vital, so keep in touch, and keep eachother updated regarding your elderly relative’s care at all times.
2: Hold regular family meetings, and hold them on neutral ground. For example, meet for coffee at a local hotel/restaurant, that way everyone will be too embarrassed to raise their voices and it’s likely they’ll instead think first before saying something that may cause friction, etc.
3: During these meetings, why not appoint one family member as minute taker/list maker. This way, when you have an honest discussion regarding what your elderly relative needs, everyone can step up to the plate and obligations/duties can be established and agreed upon.
4: It’s a good idea to have a timetable of future plans around each family member’s duties so that when you attend follow-up meetings, it’ll be easy to see where progress has/hasn’t been made.
5: Sometimes, if the situation requires it, and something delicate needs to be discussed around a particularly difficult issue whereby your senior relative’s communication abilities are in decline, (for example if a devastating diagnosis has been delivered by the doctor), then perhaps, as emotions will be running high, an independent third party, (or mediator specialising in senior care), could attend the meeting and facilitate in the event of an argument breaking out. Remember, a skilled mediator should be able to help an understandably distressed family find middle-ground and reach an agreement that best suits their elderly relative, as opposed to what best suits themselves!