A family caregiver’s responsibilities often go far beyond dealing with finances and health care decisions. Frequently, they must contend with challenging family dynamics, too.
It’s no easy task. When it comes to caring for an aging parent or relative, not every family member is going to agree on every decision. It’s extremely common for disputes about caregiving to arise.
However, by keeping some important tips and insight in mind, it’s possible to keep the discussion civil and keep disputes from escalating into full-fledged feuds or estrangement.
Start conversations early
Nobody likes having conversations about caring for an aging parent or relative. It’s uncomfortable to face the idea of their mortality. However, a little short-term discomfort can lead to greater comfort in the long term.
It’s typically easier to remain level-headed about important caretaking decisions before an elderly family member becomes incapacitated. If you let it go too long and the situation becomes dire, it can become extremely difficult to make reasonable decisions, especially if you have various family members weighing in. By having these conversations and establishing a process for decision-making early, you’ll give yourselves the luxury of time and space to figure things out in a calm and civil atmosphere.
Put things in writing
It’s great to have a casual conversation about caregiving now, but will everyone remember what they said weeks or months down the line? It’s easy to forget or misremember at a later date, so to avoid potential disputes later, be sure to put down any decisions you make about family caretaking decisions in writing.
Create a document detailing the main points of your plan, including your decision-making process. This way, family members can refer to the document later if they need a refresher—or if it’s necessary to remind someone of a decision that had already been agreed upon.
Focus on present needs
It can be tempting to focus on the challenging stuff, like long-term care and end-of-life decision-making. While these are important topics to address, don’t solely focus on the future. Consider the present needs of the person requiring care, too.
For instance, if an aging relative still has the ability to make decisions, be sure to talk about what kind of budgeting or physical needs they have right now. For example, if they choose to stay in their own home at this time, are there alterations that can be made to their home to make it safer and more accessible? Or, might moving to a single-level apartment without stairs ease their burden and lower their overall monthly budget?
Be sure to speak about their physical, emotional and financial needs. By taking proactive actions to keep them safe and healthy now, it can help all parties avoid an unnecessary burden and disputes later on.
Work with a third party if needed
Caregiving disputes can quickly become bitter. It can be extremely helpful to have an objective party involved such as an elder mediator. Also called an adult family mediator, this individual can help guide family conversations about care in healthy directions, helping groups find common ground. Their assistance can help families or groups keep things respectful and could even help avoid costly legal battles.
Another option? A care manager. This is an individual who acts as a sort of sherpa into the care community. They know about community resources and what types of supports might be necessary for an aging individual. Moreover, they can help you put a care program in place.
If an individual has a significant amount of assets, it can further ease the burden and potential conflict to have a team of financial and legal professionals involved.
Having a team – for instance, an estate planner, a CPA and/or a financial adviser – can create a system of checks and balances. Not only does it protect the aging person’s assets, but it can also help keep family members on the level.
Make a formal agreement
Regardless of who is providing care or how informal the situation may seem, it’s important to have a formal agreement detailing the expectations of a family caregiver. This can help avoid disputes later. For instance, how will they be compensated? Are they happy being paid in room and board, or will a salary and/or insurance be required?
It may not seem like a priority to formalize the terms of the caregiver’s role, but it’s well worth the effort. By making the agreement as clear and specific as possible, you can avoid a lot of headaches down the line.
Be an inclusive family caregiver
Families can be complicated. Everyone’s different and has their own opinions and style. That’s part of what makes them wonderful, but can also make it extremely challenging to make group decisions about an aging family member’s care.
It’s not easy to avoid disputes when it comes to the sometimes delicate topics involved in family caregiving. However, with a little proactive planning and good communication, it’s possible to keep potential disputes at a simmering level without boiling over.