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"No way! Mother wants to stay in her house, and if you'd just help her more, she could."
"Why can't you kids get along? I didn't raise you to argue with family like that."
Being estranged from your family can affect all aspects of your life. Adult brothers and sisters often disagree on the provision of care for their parents. Unfortunately, few families even consider advanced planning with regard to eldercare. When hasty decisions are made at the time of an emergency, lifelong sibling animosity may result due to deeply hurt feelings. Since children value personal affection from their parents and detest favoritism, the perception of favoritism to the caregiver can lead to hostility among siblings. That can adversely affect the caregiver's health and sense of well-being, resulting in suffering by the parent. If the parent deeds the family home or changes his or her Will in gratitude to the caretaker, additional animosity arises.
A study found that "nearly 40 percent of adult children providing parent care reported serious conflict with a sibling, usually related to lack of sufficient help from that sibling." The study is cited by Deborah B. Gentry in her article "Resolving Middle-Age Sibling Conflict Regarding Parent Care", Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Vol. 19:1, Fall 2001, p. 35. And families are changing more and more--they are smaller, more urban, and are more widespread geographically. In addition, gender roles have changed and there have been numerous technological improvements, with better health care resulting in longer lives. Gentry, p. 31.
What Can We Do to Preserve Our Family Relationships?
Treat your parents as you want to be treated, return their caring love, and find a strategy that works for all of your family members. Good solutions begin with healthy conversations, not with arguing. Family members need to reach a fair agreement sharing responsibility. Family mediation is a new, more effective way to make decisions as a family. Middle-aged brothers and sisters can work with their parents to come up with the best solutions while preserving their dignity and their relationships. With aging, there will still be difficult changes in family relationships. An adult child may view a parent as a wise protector--someone to turn to in times of great strife. But when the same child becomes the caretaker for the parent, family dynamics will change.
What Is Family Mediation?
Mediation is a new way to find the best possible answers to these important quality-of-life questions. In mediation, all family members including the parents agree to the process, and agree to the inclusion of any other participants. They might choose to include the children's spouses, grandchildren, other relatives, parents' friends, caregivers, medical providers, pastors and lawyers. Mediation is time-limited and goal-focused. The mediation process itself tends to provide a safe place for respectful, civilized conversation. In this atmosphere, differences can be discussed, information can be gathered, and agreements can be reached.
What Kinds of Decisions Can Be Discussed?
Topics are chosen by the family and may include parental living arrangements, health and personal care (such as driving ability), provisions in the case of terminal illness, home upkeep and repair, financial concerns, nursing home care, trust and estate issues, guardianship, power of attorney, as well as relationships between parents, grandparents and grandchildren. Families can use mediation to avoid guardianship proceedings at which a parent's incompetency must be proven in court. Children and parents may work to develop agreement as to which child should hold the parent's power of attorney and which should serve as the parent's health care representative.
What Does A Family Mediator Do?
A family mediator:
The family mediator does not:
What Role Do Family Members Play in Mediation?
"I am so pleased that you agreed to take care of Mom three weeks a year so I can go on vacation. It helps me just to know you'll be there for me, and I appreciate your financial contributions as well. "
"Well, it only seems fair to share the responsibility. Just because you live near Mom doesn't mean you should be the only child caring for her."
"I'm so glad you kids worked this out with me. Now I know you can still count on each other after I'm gone."
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