The older population—persons 65 years or older—numbered 44.7 million in 2013 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 14.1% of the U.S. population, about one in every seven Americans. By 2060, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2013.
~ Administration on Aging, US Department of Health and Human Services
The elder population in the US is booming and will continue to do so. The length of time that adult children care for their aging parents is growing as is the complexity of the decision-making around their care. Add in multiple siblings, and reaching mutual decisions about the care of aging parents can prove difficult, if not divisive. Elder mediation is an ideal way to address these challenges.
All of the most common family conflicts around caring for aging parents can be addressed successfully in mediation. Elder mediation helps each sibling and, when appropriate, the aging parent productively discuss the issues, their perspectives, and preferences. A mediator is a skilled and impartial facilitator who liberates the family to have a different kind of conversation than what they had been experiencing, helps each family member hear and be heard, and compassionately directs the family towards decisions that work for them. And often, helps begin to heal rifts that have been caused by the challenges of caring for aging parents.
Her approach is both logical and compassionate. She is extremely pragmatic, wise and intuitive.
Ten Reasons Families Fight About Senior Care (Adapted)
- Siblings View Parent’s Needs Differently
Adult siblings don’t always see care needs the same way. One child may have the impression that mom is doing fine at home while another feels that care must be put in place immediately.
- Parent Resists Care
Sometimes the whole family is on board and agrees that mom or dad needs care, but the parent resists any change tooth and nail. It’s understandable; people value their independence highly, and are loathe to give up any of it.
- Family Members Regress to Earlier Roles or Past Issues Resurface
When the immediate family comes together to care for mom or dad, they often revert to dysfunctional and unhealthy roles of the past. Sibling rivalry that has lain dormant during adulthood may suddenly rear its head again during the stressful process of caring for an aging parent.
- One Child Does All the Heavy Lifting
Often the child who lives closest to mom or dad will be the one that assumes the role of the main caregiver. When other family members don’t offer to help, the “lucky” child who is giving all the care can come to resent the siblings who have gotten off without having to help.
- One Child in Control Excludes Others From Decision Making
A scenario almost opposite of the previous example occurs when one child takes over the caregiving role and leaves their siblings or other family members in the dark, perhaps even limiting access to their parent.
- How to Pay for Senior Care
For many families, the most challenging part of arranging care is the question of how to pay it, particularly when our parents don’t have the funds to pay themselves. This scenario is increasingly common as many seniors’ retirement accounts still haven’t recovered from 2008 global economic meltdown and subsequent recession. Unless funding for care is found through government assistance like Medicaid or veteran’s aid, the adult children will have to look to their own pockets to pay for care…or they may look to one another. Should a sibling with a big income contribute more than a sibling who earns less? Should a family member who has been providing unpaid personal care be exempted from having to contribute? These questions, and others like them, have frequently kindled fiery family conflicts.
- Balancing Caregiving with Raising a Family
According to data from the National Center on Caregiving, 60% to 75% of family caregivers are women. Very often, the same woman is raising children of her own (a sandwich generation caregiver) and balancing the demands of a career to boot. It’s understandable that someone juggling these demanding roles, each of which could be considered a full time job, might get burned out irritable.
- Caring for Both Parents at Once
While it’s great that your parents have been able to grow old together, caring for two parents simultaneously is doubly challenging. When both parents need advanced care, the physical and financial strain is immense. But it’s also challenging when the level of care needed is imbalanced, or the two parents need different kinds of care – for example, one parent might need Alzheimer’s care while another needs skilled nursing. The heart wrenching prospect of having to separate your parents can cause tempers to flare, and the physical, financial, and logistic complexities of arranging care for two loved ones at once can raise stress levels to an all-time high.
- End of Life Care
Loved ones often battle fiercely about end of life care. One child may want to arrange hospice care for a terminally ill parent, while another may advocate that every day lived is a victory. In both cases family members want what is best for their older loved one, but disagree about what that means.
- Estates and Inheritances
It’s incredibly sad to see families fight over an inheritance, but it happens all too often. Whether the dispute is over a treasured family heirloom or a large sum of cash, it gets ugly fast. These battles frequently occur when a will hasn’t been written or has become out of date, but they can even occur in cases when reasonable estate-planning measures have been taken.