In times of stress, even the best of
families have difficulty agreeing on what to do with Mom
and Dad. But not many of us come from the best of
families. Most of us come from normal families
with lots of history, past disagreements, and maybe even
feelings of resentment or bitterness. These issues
make reaching an agreement on a very difficult situation
almost impossible. Here are a few suggestions
which may help make this easier.
The most important suggestion is also
the most difficult. Good communication sounds easy
enough; you and your siblings can talk this over.
But are you really communicating? Truly helpful
communication will not take place without an accepting
environment. That means that everyone
participating in this conversation must be willing to
accept without judgment the statements made by others.
This is the hard part. When your brother says he
is too busy to help take care of Mom, it seems like a
normal reaction to be upset. It seems perfectly
reasonable to question his loyalty and commitment to
your mother. The accusations begin to fly, your
brother feels guilty and gets defensive. Communication
ends and arguments begin.
This situation is repeated all over the
nation in many families. What is your brother
really saying to you? Do you really think he
doesnít love your mother? Is he so obsessed with
making money that he is not willing to cut back at work?
Does he want to put Mom in a nursing home? Hasnít
he heard all of the things that could happen there?
She took care of us, why is he abandoning his family?
What has happened to your brother?
Your brother on the other hand is
thinking, Is my sister crazy? I donít have time
for anything now and she wants me to take care of Mom?
There are so many things going on in my life, there is
no way I can do this. We just started a new
project at work and my boss is expecting me to put in
overtime to get it done. I canít drop the ball; I
have been waiting for this chance for a long time.
There are perfectly good professionals who would be
better taking care of Mom. They are trained and
know what to do in these situations. I have no
idea what to do or where to even start.
There are two people here who both love
their mother. They both want to take good care of
her. These two people have been raised by the same
parents, in the same house, but canít agree on what to
do. These two people have each had very different
life experiences, and have two different opinions about
what is the right thing to do in this situation.
Your brother feels it would be wrong to try to take care
of Mom if you donít know what youíre doing. He has
not been to a bad nursing home; he has not heard some of
these horror stories. He does not feel he is
abandoning his mother; he feels like this really is
taking care of her in the best way.
You feel like nursing homes are horrible
places where people go to wait to die. They have
been abandoned by their families, who are too busy to
take care of them. Because they feel so guilty
about this decision, and the nursing home is such a
horrible place to be, their families hate to visit.
They come by less and less, make excuses, and before you
know it, Mom dies in a nursing home alone, surrounded by
mean strangers, full of bed sores, thin as a rail and
you will never forgive yourself.
How do these two extreme opposites come
to an agreement? The willingness to accept each otherís
opinions without judgment will open the environment to
true and helpful communication. Hold the family meeting,
including all siblings, spouses and children. If you are
absolutely certain you want to bring Mom into your home,
try it for thirty days. Create a list of what
needs to be done. Maybe your brother cannot
imagine helping his mother get dressed, but he can pick
up her medications. He will not take time off work
to take her to the doctor during the week, but he is
willing to pay the neighborís kid to mow her lawn.
By accepting each otherís
opinion, you can move onto what is possible. Focus
on what each of you is willing to do to make this
happen. All of the family should be involved in
these decisions, and all concerns should be addressed in
some fashion. Compromise on those issues you
cannot agree on. Do things on a trial basis and
determine how the family will evaluate if it is working.
Hold another family meeting in 25 days and this time try
to include Mom. Is she happy? Is anyone
unhappy with the arrangements? What adjustments need to
be made? Will this work long term?
Good communication is just the beginning
of what your family is capable of. Good Luck.
Anna Walters, RN, is the Director of
Memory Care at Senior Star Living in Romeoville,
Illinois. Anna has also been a family caregiver which
has given her a more personal perspective into the
complex problems of caregiving.
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