With an increasingly aging population, people are living well into their nineties. Unfortunately, with age comes more health issues—physical as well as mental. The increasing needs of the elderly often cause rifts among their children as to how to best manage the care of their parents.
Often, old dynamics and tensions between siblings reappear as they find themselves facing a family crisis, causing difficulties in reaching a consensus on what the best approach may be to resolve that crisis.
Eldercare decisions revolve around a multitude of issues depending on the age and health of the person concerned:
- Housing: private vs assisted living or nursing home
- The need for daytime or round-the-clock assistance
- Financial considerations:
- Are there sufficient funds to pay for all the necessary expenses?
- If not, how to best address the expenses?
- Who will manage the expenses?
- Power of Attorney giving one person the legal right to handle payment of bills; access the parent’s bank account; and make decisions regarding investments and properties
- Health Care Proxy: Who has the legal right to make the medical decisions?
- Who will take a parent to the doctor?
- Who will handle the shopping for food, clothing, medication and other necessities?
- Who takes care of the parent when the caretaker is on vacation?
- Other issues that may be particular to each family
The elder care mediation process allows members of one family to meet as a group so that each of them can express their own point of view. They can then brainstorm the advantages and disadvantages of different solutions, and ideally find one that will not only be beneficial to the elderly parents but manageable by the caretakers.
Don’t Forget: Mom and Dad Have a Voice, Too
One important issue that I often address with families that come to mediation is that people frequently tend to talk about the elderly as though they have no say in the matter; as though their time has passed, and now it is left to others to make all decisions.
In certain cases, the elder person may be so afflicted that they cannot have a voice regarding their care. However, if your elder family members are able, it is important to keep in mind that they need to be involved, and their feelings should be taken into consideration. And please don’t talk in front of them as if they were invisible.
Seniors dislike being a burden to their families. They may not express it as such, and in fact, often suffer in silence. For those of us involved in the care of the sick and elderly, as hard as it may be, we need to be mindful of their physical AND emotional well-being.
Do you have any experiences that you would like to share to help other families facing such crisis?
Jennifer Safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny