How To Avoid Family Conflict When Planning Elder Care
Even without the inherent stress of aging, many families are functional only in the broadest sense.
That is, each family carries the weight of its own persistent conflicts. Adult children carry grudges instilled from childhood. Siblings hold resentments over decades-old perceived inequities. Aging parents want and need more than their busy, adult children can provide.
Add to this the uncertainty of health and the question of longevity, and you may find yourself in the center of a mini-hurricane.
Regardless, the needs of aging parents will not simply evaporate because they are ignored. Avoiding tough discussions in order to avoid the conflict that often inevitably travels with them does not solve any problem.
Elder care is something that requires advance planning, and it requires, ideally, the input and assistance of an entire family.
What, then, are the best ways to avoid family conflict as difficult conversations are navigated and unpleasant eventualities are confronted?
This article aims to provide a few tips to families embracing the need for planning while dodging the tender points that every family has.
The introduction above hinted at the #1 step that your family can take to avoid conflict: planning ahead for the needs and care of elderly parents.
Talking with your parents and with siblings well in advance of any crisis-point need will ensure that, when short- or long-term care is eventually (and inevitably) required, you are all on the same page about what needs to be done and when—and how the expense will be shared or borne.
Such advance planning can be as much strategic as utilitarian.
That is, you may know that a sibling tends to lash out when feeling blindsided by decisions made without his or her participation—even when you may not agree that this has happened.
A discussion in advance that includes “all necessary personnel” will ensure that no one feels left out when action is finally required.
Not least, advance planning will ensure that your parents’ wishes, fears, concerns, and advice are all accounted for.
No parent wants a long-term care solution forced upon him or her against instinct, comfort-level, and hard-won experience.
Communicate with One Another
Silence breeds misunderstanding. Misunderstanding breeds conflict.
A family that speaks openly and calmly about its issues will avoid a lot of conflict.
That said, as implied above, communication has a more substantive purpose: to ensure that everyone is on the same page insofar as the long-term care planning is concerned.
Despite the form communication takes on social media, it is not simply a broadcast of one’s opinion. (Or it needn’t be, at any rate.)
Communication is bilateral or multilateral exchange of ideas and thoughts. Perhaps Cousin Rupert has an idea that has never occurred to you? Perhaps your parents have already thought through their options on their own and have set certain wheels in motion without informing any of you?
You’ll never know if you don’t speak to one another.
Silence breeds conflict, but it also breeds ignorance and leaves a gaping hole where inspiration and creativity could otherwise simmer.
Organized Record-Keeping and Maintenance
There is nothing that a lawyer loves more than properly organized, up-to-date documentation.
There is nothing that will facilitate an effective long-term care plan better than properly organized, up-to-date documentation.
It is essential that those involved in the planning of care for the family’s elder members have an accurate understanding of the location, value, and nature of all assets and property.
It is also essential to understand what estate plan, if any, has been devised, where it is located—and who among you (or others) will execute its provisions and/or serve as trustee of any trust instrument devised.
Whichever is tasked with that onerous role will be under a further obligation to keep the peace through clear and regular communication with other family-members about—when the time comes—the steps you are taking to fulfill your parents’ wishes to the letter.
Maintaining the documentation and records compiled by your parents and then documenting each transaction you engage on behalf of their estate or trust in full view of the other interested parties in the family will go a long way toward ensuring family harmony for years to come.
Empathy may be the most precious—and increasingly rare—commodity in our society today.
In terms of maintaining family relations while engaged in long-term care planning, it is essential to remain empathetic to the needs of the elder members for whom you are planning—and to each other.
The levels of trust and ability and even love of each of you will vary according to your particular family experiences and histories.
The levels of financial and material wherewithal to be of use in the planning process and ultimate execution of the plan will vary according to individuals means.
Your sister working two jobs while raising a young child alone? Be empathetic to the limits of her time-commitment ability.
Your brother just out of rehab? His situation may be highly tenuous. Be empathetic to that.
Most of all, be empathetic to your parents or to whomever is the subject of the plan you’re all cobbling together. Are they ready to discuss this? How is their health? Did your mother or father just lose a spouse? A childhood friend? Are lifelong dreams unfulfilled and yet longed for?
The internal clockwork of the elderly is complicated and working on old, tired, and sometimes very sad mechanisms.
Don’t talk over your elderly. Talk to them. Ask them what they want. Understand if they don’t know or aren’t realistic.
Accept One Another
You are who you are. And so are they. The sooner that you accept that fact, the easier your communication and your planning will be.
If one of you has a lifelong habit of showing up late, even on important occasions, don’t flip your lid when it happens for your first family planning meeting.
If your father is a non-communicative fellow, or indecisive, don’t expect him to be more forthcoming than he ever has been.
Respect your differences, and accept them.
The sooner you are able to do that, the more effectively you will be able plan without family conflict.
Really, the sooner you are able to do that, the sooner you will be able to do pretty much anything without conflict.
In this way, the need for elder planning can be a valuable opportunity for family growth, even at this late juncture in your relationship.
Seek the Counsel of a Florida Elder Care Attorney
Last but not least, it is important to recognize the limits of your professional expertise as a family.
While it is possible that one or more of you may have some experience in the field of elder care, long-term care planning, estate planning, or another related area, you will not have either the professional capacity of an attorney—or the ability to counsel at arm’s length.
Orlando, Florida elder care attorneys can provide a valuable service to your family by stepping in and advising as to what measures are effective, time-tested, and, of course, legal.
An elder care attorney can help you and your parents avoid scams and other pitfalls, including the ever-unfortunate use of “do-it-yourself” forms from the internet that may not comply with Florida State law.
It is always best to leave certain things to an expert.
It is also sometimes a great way of sidestepping family conflict. When disagreement arises, it is always easier to say, “Well, that’s what our lawyer said we should to do!” than it is to argue back and forth endlessly.
It’s a good way to cap-off a conversation.
Or an argument.
At the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, PA, we specialize in bringing order to chaos.
If you need assistance with your elder care planning, contact us to schedule your free consultation.