Oftentimes when caring for a loved one, multiple family members from near and far, are involved. While caregiving can bring family members together, it can also shake up tricky family dynamics. Difficult decisions like handling finances, hiring in-home support, or figuring out where to move mom or dad can create feelings of frustration and tension.
Here are some tips which can help families communicate effectively along the way.
Divide up responsibilities and talents
Families, whether they realize it or not, need to rely on each other. It may feel as if everyone has their own opinion and nobody is on the same page, but oftentimes you all are. Just remember, your family wants the best for your loved one.
Responsibilities and caregiving tasks can be divided amongst the family, so each person plays a part. Have a family meeting so everyone can share their abilities and availability. Not everyone has the same talents – someone may be tech savvy and can research information, while another may prefer to handle communication with medical providers.
Speak with intention
When addressing difficult topics, write down what you’re going to say in advance and consider your words carefully. Once written out, practice out loud and speak with intention, no matter how emotional the conversation becomes. And remember to use more inclusive language, like “we” or “our” – this shows your loved one you’re putting them first.
Listen to your loved one
When there are a lot of opinions floating around amongst the family, it is most important to hear what your loved one’s preferences are. You want the best care for your loved ones, that’s for sure, so get to know what that means to your loved one. Try asking “How do you feel about this next step?” or “What worries do you have?” Knowing their wishes can help guide the care plan.
Enlist the help of a neutral third party
Rather than one big family meeting, establish an ongoing dialogue and regular check-ins about how things are going. You can also turn to a third party like Wellthy or a local care manager to help mediate difficult family conversations or meetings. They can bring in an impartial, yet professional, perspective so no one person is shouldering the blame or responsibility.
Be aware of generational differences
Family members from different age groups may not see each other’s points of view. For instance, older generations often view mental/behavioral health differently, and can be reluctant to seek out treatment for themselves or loved ones with mental health concerns.
Create boundaries when necessary
Sometimes the healthiest option for you and your loved one is to not allow certain difficult family members to be involved. It can be tempting to keep the peace between family members by including everyone in the caregiving process, but clear and firm boundaries can help prevent resentment and burnout caused by stressful relationships.
Be mindful of your loved one’s autonomy
Always remember an aging loved one is still an adult who has autonomy to whatever degree is possible given their cognitive and physical condition. When communicating with your loved one, especially about controversial topics, such as hiring help for the home, be mindful to preserve your loved one’s autonomy and dignity, as much as possible.