Even the Closest
Families Can Have Their Issues
old hurts and angers will not miraculously disappear as
your parents age. In fact, they might even get worse. So
it’s critical that you plan ahead because you don’t want
to be bound to your parents through years of ill health
and dependency, and you don’t want to be arguing with
your siblings just when your parents need help.
If you’ve never
gotten along as a family, or if you have long-standing
anger with your parents, this is going to be
particularly difficult. But it’s that much more
important that you find the courage to talk and plan.
Having conversations now can mean fewer battles,
resentments and regrets later. Who knows? It might even
alleviate some of the tension.
difficult the relationship, the more businesslike you
will need to be about this. It can help to have a formal
family meeting and, if necessary, include a mediator — a
family therapist or geriatric case worker. Write up an
agenda and some ground rules in advance (for example,
each person gets five minutes to speak, or certain
topics are not to be discussed).
topics. This is not the time to revisit old issues.
Focus on the topics at hand (where will she live, how
will she pay for care, etc.). If the conversation veers
into troubled water, gently steer it back on track.
Sometimes face-to-face isn’t the best approach. If you
don’t get along, e-mail will allow you time to think
before you type, and time to edit before you hit “send.”
you’re all grown up, old patterns and labels from your
childhood may linger. A distant brother might not want
to hear about your talks with Mom. A bossy older sister
might continue to micro-manage. But people do change. A
sibling who may have been too immature to contribute in
the past, might be the most capable of shouldering
responsibility as an adult. And a parent who’s been
disengaged might be capable of sharing now. Try not to
lock people into yesterday’s roles.
Talk about your feelings using “I”
messages and speaking from personal experience. Avoid
“you” sentences that might suggest blame or come across
as criticisms. That will only make people defensive and
dictates who will end up being the main caregiver. If
you live closest to your parents, but don’t get along
with them or don’t have time to give, talk with your
siblings about this now.
If one parent is
already ill, your healthy parent is probably the main
caregiver. But often, it is this person whose health
fails, leaving the family stranded. Again, it’s vital to
talk. Support the primary caregiver, and have another
option in case something happens to her (or him).
If you know in
advance that you are going to be the primary caregiver
or will be expected to offer financial help, talk to
your siblings about how this might play out and what you
will expect from them, as well.
Source: Genworth Financial
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