Family Feuds

“Over the river and through the snow,

To Grandmother’s house, we go!”

Every December my husband and I would pack our kids in the car for the 7-hour drive to Georgia to spend time with his family for their annual holiday gathering. We would sing, laugh, play games, listen to audiobooks, and then tumble out of the car at Mema’s house for a few days of good food, laughter, and reconnecting with aunts, uncles, and cousins not seen for many months. The family filled the house to overflowing, and the laughter never stopped.

Family gatherings fill the weeks between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day for most people, and these are an essential part of our traditions. But if you are a Family Caregiver, this custom can bring lots of added stress to your holidays, and not the least of this is the discord that might arise if families clash about the care you are giving to your aging loved one, or if they fail to recognize your sacrifice of time and energy.

When aging parents need help, conflicts may arise from several directions. When there are several adult children, there may be conflict over who becomes the primary decision-maker for arranging care. Usually, if one adult child is local, that person takes on this role, and may even become the primary caregiver. Other siblings might disagree on the type of care or the amount of attention your aging parent needs. Conflict may also arise if there is a cost involved in receiving care, and sometimes families disagree on how the money is spent. If sibling rivalry has been an ongoing issue within the family, this can create additional strain within the family dynamics as well.

Family feuds are never fun when they impact a Family Caregiver. If you feel caught in the middle, your best recourse is to involve an impartial 3rd party expert who can listen objectively to the issues the family is dealing with and help broker a solution that is acceptable to everyone. Such disagreements might involve the senior’s actual condition and needs, estate planning, financial management, interpersonal roles and rivalries, and the burden of care. Your 3rd party expert might be a minister, a doctor, a geriatric care manager, or even someone from a homecare or hospice agency.

The most important thing is to try and keep your ego out of the mix. As the primary Family Caregiver, you have to always keep your loved one’s best interests in the forefront. If you can help your siblings and other family members do this as well, you have a much better chance of coming up with a plan that everyone will support, and your holiday gatherings will be merry and bright!

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