Updated: Feb 27, 2020
One of the most difficult situations I have encountered over the years is managing residents with children who struggle to agree on care. This happens for many reasons and may go back to something that occurred many years ago. As family structures change and evolve with divorce, remarriage, or other situations, caring for an aging parent can become quite daunting. Inevitably the larger the family the greater the struggle and potential for differing of opinions. As a result, I want to share three strategies that I have recommended over the years to care for an aging parent jointly.
Advanced Directives: The most important and beneficial strategy that I have found is to have your parents or loved one complete ALL of their advanced directives while they are of sound mind. This would include Living Will, Estate planning and will, Healthcare power of attorney and financial power of attorney, etc . Once a parent declines to the point that they can no longer make decisions for themselves there is a clear distinction of roles and designation of desires. Many seniors struggle with this, however, I encourage children to make the appointment with the lawyer or estate planner. Assisting with transportation or even paying for the session might be of benefit to accomplish this goal as well. It is important to allow the parent or loved one to make their own decision (without influence) regarding their own desires for their will and representatives.
Family Meeting(s): My second recommendation again involves a difficult task but I have found to be very beneficial in the end. Schedule a family meeting to discuss important end of life and estate planning topics that rarely get discussed. Although this can be difficult it is important for all siblings or children to be present and to hear answers to these difficult questions. Some questions to ask but not limited to might include: Where do you want to be buried? Is a plot or location purchased already? Is cremation ok? Is there a life insurance policy and where is located? If you are unable to eat food by mouth, do you want a g-tube? Do you want to be placed on a ventilator? These are only a few hard questions. There are so many other things that could be discussed. Look at your specific situation and consider potential factors that may affect your family and open the discussion.
Choose one point person: Choosing one point person is my last strategy to review. If a parent is in a facility and there are many children involved with no designated POA, I encourage the children and/ or grandchildren to designate one point person. Everyone must overcome any past issues and work together to care for their aging or sick loved one. This person will then be the liaison between the family and facility and will communicate information and decisions. This is important because many facilities will not communicate the same information to multiple siblings. Choosing a point person does not restrict others from visiting or being a part of the decision making process. The point person should communicate to all involved and collaborate with all family members to make decisions together.