Caregiving and Family Hostilities
By Isabel Fawcett, SPHR
If it seems like caregiving to aging parents with chronic health issues brings out the worst in some individuals, it happens. The family’s communication gridlock may not be due to the stress of eldercare, however.
Deep-seated individual and/or family dysfunction in communicating and relationships may have remained unresolved over the years. Unresolved family issues will not magically disappear.
Family Dynamics Mirrors Social Issues
In 2010, healthcare reform legislation passed in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA.) Some Americans were gung-ho about the passage of PPACA and the need to radically reform healthcare in the U.S. Other Americans were and may remain vehemently opposed to PPACA. Some individuals are in favor of having PPACA repealed. One nation America shall remain regardless of individual viewpoints.
Consider family dynamics in context of the PPACA social analogy. One family remains recurring dysfunction notwithstanding. To have and express strong emotions is to be human.
Tip of the Family’s Eldercare Iceberg
Common sticking points for families facing eldercare life transitions include:
- estate disagreements;
- eldercare decision disagreements;
- financial disputes;
- medical treatment issues for elders;
- funeral, burial and memorial decisions;
- wills and powers of attorney, and more
Even the most trivial matters can trigger major family disputes or lead to a total breakdown in a family’s communication and relationships.
Feelings will ebb and flow at-will. Some feelings may be repressed and surprise us in when, and, how they re-emerge during the most stressful times in our lives. Stressful times – as in caring for our aging and chronically ill parents who once did a dismal or, not so dismal job of caring for us when we were children.
Remember those occasional (normal) vulnerable feelings you and I had as children?
Some of our childhood feelings were real. Other feelings we may have experienced in childhood may have been based on imagined or misinterpreted signals. Those childhood and young adulthood feelings that we may not have been able to express due to: age, immaturity, language development, cultural influences, fear, or any number of reasons, remain intact only to re-surface when least expected.
It may be that the most important step a caregiver can take when eldercare makes its debut in a family’s life is recognizing that disputes will occur in the best of families, as in society. Similar to social disputes and heated public discourse family disputes boil over or slow-simmer.
A caregiver’s handling of family disagreements may ease angst and help the caregiver, elder, and the entire family achieve healing over time. Some caregivers do so without outside help. Others may need a friend, counselor, mentor, or licensed professional to help. It’s all good.
Isabel Fawcett, SPHR
Isabel has been a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver to her 85 year old mother for 2 years, and counting. She is a regular Contributor at ElderCareLink, a blogger and Twitterer. Isabel is an independent human resources consultant and former HR management professional with 20+ years of HR experience, including FMLA, workers’ compensation and the Americans With Disabilities Act. She is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certified and last worked for the Office of the Governor in Texas before her most recent eldercare choice. Isabel also has worked in healthcare as Assistant Director of Volunteers at Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City, and Manager of Staffing and Recruitment, Norwalk Hospital, Connecticut. She has also worked at Marriott International Headquarters in HR. Isabel is fully bilingual in English and Spanish and has been a patient care volunteer for the American Red Cross overseas.