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26th Aug


Families Are Complex

Families are Complex and no one family is exactly like another. Still, there are certain factors that frequently lead to strife when a parent needs care. Family dynamics are such a factor. Families have histories reaching back into childhood. Though usually buried, there are often old resentments, rivalries, and wounds. There are, from the past, dysfunctional ways of dealing with one another. These kinds of feelings and behaviors can surface when a family comes together as a family once again so as to provide for a parent’s care. Not only do old memories and feelings reemerge, but they do so at a time of considerable stress.

Another common element is denial

The Mayo Clinic has defined denial as “a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations.” It can be very difficult to come to see a parent you have always relied on as now ailing and needing help. One way of coping with this is denial—denying or downplaying the seriousness of the situation. This can lead to a lot of conflict. If you and some of your siblings feel that your parent needs full-time care, and yet another sibling feels the need is exaggerated, it can be very hard to come to a mutual agreement.

Sometimes something far more basic is behind the denial. Caregiving requires a lot of time and a lot of energy. Many people already feel stretched to the limit, living their day-to-day lives in this hectic world. They resist the idea of taking on even more responsibilities.

What to do?

Despite the many obstacles that can surface as a family tries to work together, it can still be a time when brothers and sisters can grow closer and learn how to cooperate better within a framework of mutual respect and understanding. This cannot happen without good communication, and good communication requires effort.

It is all too common for family members to make assumptions about one another. Some may assume that because one of them does not have a full-time job, that person will be doing most of the caregiving. Sometimes there is the assumption that the one who lives closest to the parent will provide most of the support. Rather than making assumptions about one another, they need to meet and have frank and fair discussions about how much each of them is able to do. They need to give one another the time to think things over rather than pressure one another to make immediate commitments. Pressure only leads to resentment later.

Regular Communication

There also needs to be regular communication about the needs of their ailing parent. They need to keep each other up-to-date on reports from doctors, nurses and geriatric care professionals. It is important to have objective and professional information, rather than relying on what their parent may say or not say about the situation.

Work together. Be understanding of one another. Realize that there are deep and strong emotions involved. Do the best you can to communicate. And if one sibling refuses to cooperate, then be patient. Take the high road. Do not attack or cajole. Despite the challenges and despite the stress it can be a time to grow closer as a family.

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