Your elderly parent is no longer able to care for him/herself and they need help with their activities of daily living. Everyone in the family agrees they need some help- but disagree on what is needed. It’s hard enough when the roles reverse and an adult child starts managing the care and well-being of their parent. However, when families do not agree on how to move forward it is just that much tougher. We regularly see families disagree and struggle with decisions such as: 

  1. Whether the parent remains at home 
  2. Who will be the caregiver
  3. What help is needed 
  4. Whether the parent will move to assisted living, and the location
  5. Assessment of medical needs
  6. Understanding of financial constraints

Family conflict can take a toll on everyone involved, including the elderly parent. Every situation is unique. To make the best decisions and resolve conflict, the following may be helpful:    

1: Focus on the best interests of the parent.  While this seems obvious, family history and dynamics often factor into disputes regarding parents’ care decisions.  Children should consider what the parent would want if able to make their own decisions, focus on advice of medical professionals who understand the clinical and social needs of the parent, and put their own personal conflicts aside.  

Factors that cause children to lose focus on the parent’s well-being are often as follows:

  1. Failure to take into consideration what the elderly parent desires (when competent)
  2. Their relationship with one another
  3. The child wanting a “say” in what mom or dad should do
  4. Their perceived notion of fairness (i.e. the other sibling is the parent’s favorite child; the other sibling is bossy and always gets their way, etc.)
  5. Social status (i.e. the other sibling cannot afford to contribute to parent’s care, the other sibling has enough to deal with on own, etc.)

Open communication and explanation are vital.  

2: Hiring a professional Geriatric Care Manager to assess and provide input about the parent’s care.  Geriatric care managers can be hired to provide both invaluable insight and oversight regarding your parent’s current and likely future care needs. Geriatric care managers are:  

  1. Knowledgeable about different types of placement (independent living, assisted living, group home, memory care)
  2. Know the benefits/disadvantages of a particular placement
  3. Know the medical professionals your parent should be seeing
  4. Know whether care can be managed at home, and what accommodations need to be made (meal service plans, handicap modifications, fall prevention, home health, etc.)  
  5. Able to act as the liaison between the siblings or with the care facility and other medical providers

Many disputes between family members arise due to lack of understanding regarding the parent’s diagnosis, abilities or deficits regarding self-care, and best options available for medical and long-term care. A geriatric care manager has the education, knowledge, and experience necessary to assess the situation and guide and support the family in appropriate medical decision making. 

3: Guardianship when your elderly parent is incapacitated and there are irreconcilable family disputes.  In some unfortunate circumstances, guardianship is needed to protect a vulnerable parent from poor decisions or detrimental acrimonious behavior. In other situations where there is significant dispute among persons with otherwise equal authority to make medical decisions, a Guardianship may be the best solution. The court will appoint the individual or entity to serve “in the best interests” of the incapacitated parent to make the parent’s medical and personal decisions.  In some instances, the appointment of a neutral third party (e.g., professional licensed fiduciary or neutral family member) may be appropriate. The guardian will have sole decision-making authority, acting in the best interests of the parent and must continue to facilitate contact with individuals with whom the parent had a significant relationship (i.e., family members/close friends).  

Everyone typically wants what they believe is best for mom or dad; they may just have a difference of opinion as to what that is. We find education about the parent’s true needs, alternatives to meet those needs, and open communication facilitated through counsel can often help resolve matters.  In addition, medical directives are beneficial. Alternatively, there are situations in which Guardianship may be beneficial. Our attorneys have substantial experience in handling these types of matters. If you or your family needs help in helping your elderly parent, please call us at 480-922-1010 or email to schedule a consultation with one of our elder law attorneys to get the legal and practical advice you need.