NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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HOW IS YOUR MOM (OR DAD)?  11/17/17“How are your parents doing?”  It’s a question we may be asked as our parents age into their senior years.  Behind the short answer to the question, there can be complex circumstances.

When the people we care about or care for begin to require more or different care than what we are able to provide, we are find ourselves needing to cope with dilemmas and decisions regarding long term care.  The issues that require attention and decision-making can range from how to pay the bills to caregiving roles, and everything in between.  Wrestling with these questions can cause internal turmoil and it can also challenge family relationships.

Keys to family decision-making include understanding what the potential sources of conflict could be and learning strategies to avoid or reduce the impact of the common conflicts.

Seven potential sources of conflict that commonly arise include:

  • Differences in how each family member would define the problem and care needs
  • Different perceptions or opinions regarding suitable solutions
  • Differences in role expectations
  • Differences in values, attitudes, or beliefs
  • Differences in decision making style or processes
  • Unresolved prior conflicts
  • Lack of communication, or miscommunication

Strategies that will help avoid or reduce the conflicts that arise during family decision-making include:

1.  Clarify how the problems and care needs are perceived.  All family members need to learn about the disease, diagnosis and treatment options and possible consequences.  Recognize that there may be many “unknowns” when dealing with dementia or cognitive impairments.  Be realistic in assessing the extent of the crisis, setting goals and expectations for recovery.

2.  Explore the quality and quantity of care that is needed.  Consider if and how informal and formal support systems could be part of a suitable solution.  Although most care needs do not have a hard and fast “right” way to be met, there may definitely be some “wrong” approaches.  Encourage and help the elder maintain as much independence as is reasonable.  There may be a fine line between the elder’s needing, asking for, and accepting help, versus the elder becoming overly dependent.

3.  Sort out, and possibly re-negotiate roles.  Roles are the “who does what.”  As a chronic illness unfolds, grieving for what is being lost is natural.  It needs to be acknowledged.  Recognize the risk of family members trying to do too much, as well as the risk of denial/avoidance.

4.  Allow and encourage each family member to openly and respectfully communicate his/her attitudes, beliefs and values. 

5.  Use whatever means of communication is effective, efficient, and comfortable.  This includes in person, phone, or technology assisted conversations, family meetings, and written communication whether on paper or through email or text messages. Remember that communication involves speaking as well as listening, and that we hear with our ears, and often listen with our heart. 

6.  Stay focused on the current situation without getting pulled into other older or unresolved conflicts.  Get professional counseling or therapy if that is what is needed.

7.  Recognize and respect that different family members may have different decision-making styles.  Try to agree on using an effective decision-making process. 

Please refer to the University of Minnesota Extension publication for more information about this topic and each of the strategies.  It can be found online at https://www.extension.umn.edu/family/live-healthy-live-well/healthy-futures/identifying-conflict/.

SOURCE:  Identify and Address Sources of Conflict when Making Decisions about Long Term Care, Marlene S. Stum, University of Minnesota Extension Specialist and Professor, Family Social Science

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/grandparents-grandmother-grandfather-2198053/ (downloaded 11/21/17)



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