What do you do when a family is divided over the need for assisted living? What if parents are divided? What if siblings are divided?

  1. Molly Dworken 10/16/2012 05:33PM

    Disagreeing about the need for assisting living for a family member can tear a family apart. In some cases, a spouse may not wish his husband or wife to leave the home. It may be out of a sense of guilt or a fear of loneliness and loss of companionship. Siblings also may get into heated discussions about a parent moving into assisted living. Those who are in favor of assisted living may be the ones who are most involved in caring for their parent. Having spent considerable time in maintaining their parent's home and their health, they have seen the deterioration of their parent's health and mental capacity more than the siblings who are less involved and possibly living out of town. Those opposed to assisted living may not realize the extent to which their parent requires help. They may not want to lose the family home, or they might feel guilt that they are moving their parent against his or her wishes or against the wishes of their other parent.

    The first step in resolving such a dispute is to hold a family meeting in which every individual provides his or her perspective. With everyone's concerns on the table, it may be possible to come to a resolution that ends the disagreement. Perhaps the overburdened caregiver can be relieved of some duties by other siblings agreeing to participate more. Perhaps a clear understanding of a spouse's or parent's health condition, as well as an acknowledgement of the potential danger the family member may be to him or herself, will help the family arrive at a consensus of the need for assisted living care.

    Having the family member's doctor weigh in with his or her opinion as an objective third party can also help to bring about a consensus. Or the family may be able to agree on another third-party mediator whose opinion will be given weight in making the final decision.

    Perhaps misunderstandings of what assisted living entails is causing the disagreement. In that case, suggesting that the family take a tour of an assisted living community may open minds to how their loved one can be safer and better cared for in such an environment. Additionally, a care advisor or a geriatric care manager can also provide helpful mediation and feedback. They are experienced with such challenges and understand the dynamics and can suggest appropriate resolutions.