If money is the number-one issue that breaks up marriages, then it's no surprise that it wreaks havoc on caregiving families. The "you never" and "why do I always have to" statements catapult between family members -- and some of these wounds never heal. How do you avoid the most heated caregiving fights -- or at least cool them off?
Strategies to Cool Caregiving Tempers:
1. Bring in the professionals.
When it comes to money issues, rely on a professional to keep everyone on the "up and up." If you need to consult an elder law attorney or find it wise to appoint an outside trustee or mediator -- do it. Getting professional, unbiased advice regarding your elder's finances lends an air of authority and openness for all involved members. It's also better for an outsider to the "bad guy" if tough decisions need to be made.
2. Set up a designated "money talk" time and stick to it.
Plan weekly or monthly money talks with family members who need to be consulted. Get everyone together or on speaker phone. E-mail or fax documents, if needed, and be sure to keep the meetings productive, with clear-cut goals. Once the call is over, it's over. Go back to being sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. It's important to remember the old adage: Handle things efficiently -- and people effectively.
3. Give family members a chance to share their concerns and offer choices.
Most of us don't like being told what to do, so allow others to have some say in how they participate. Share your caregiving needs (financial or otherwise), but then allow others the opportunity to brainstorm and help come up with solutions. Be open to new ideas and new solutions.
4. Let go of trying to get other family members to understand how you feel when it comes to financial concerns -- save that for your caregiver buds.
Instead, figure what you and your parents want or need and ask for it. Be specific. Then have a Plan B. If your family members can't provide what you need, who can? Choose not to harbor resentment. If a family member can't do something for you, then move on and find someone who can.
5. Know when you need to vent.
All family frustrations can't be solved. Your brother's not going to give up vacation time to come watch Mom no matter how much you plead. Sometimes you just gotta let off some steam. How? Call a caregiver buddy and ask if you can vent for five minutes. Set a timer and let it rip. Then, change the subject. Talk about a movie to watch on Netflix, or about how you finally got around to joining the Y -- anything that's not related to caregiving. Turn off the caregiving -- and turn on your life. And if you don't have a friend who'll be a good sounding board for your caregiving frustrations, consider consider an online support group for caregivers where you can connect with others who know exactly what you're going through.
6. Come up with a family slogan.
Remember who you are by coming up with some cheesy catchwords that remind you that you're all in it together. Whether it's the Four Musketeers or Dad's Fabulous Girls, slogans have a way of reminding us that we're a team.
7. Sometimes money issues cause deep family rifts.
One member may want to make amends while another stays mad and even stops communicating. It's sad, but it happens. So what do you do when all else fails? Lovingly detach. It's not ideal, but when your situation is so painful that it's tearing you up, then it's time to step back and let go for awhile. If you've made every effort to make contact and ask for a truce but your efforts are blocked, then step back. Choose not to dwell on the hurt. Choose to reach back to a better time and remember the way you used to be together. Sometimes people need space, and sometimes that's enough to at least begin the healing.
by Carol O'Dell Caring.com contributing editor
Carol O'Dell is a contributing editor for Caring.com, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. If your family is looking for ways to afford senior living, see 8 Smart Ways to Pay for Assisted Living.