Senior Life 101: The power of forgiveness — part 2

Last month I concluded my article by sharing that I wanted to address some of the issues that typically cause conflict among family members, and why we need to confront these issues head-on.

When there are hard feelings, disagreement, anger, friction, battles, conflict, or fighting among family members, a difficult situation becomes even more daunting.

The perception of what is needed varies from one family member to another. Since there is so much at stake, individual views and beliefs are held close. Arguing over what is best becomes personal. Relationships, if not already strained, now come under attack. Family members don’t seem satisfied with decisions put in place.  All of which leads to anger, frustration, and unforgivingness,

So … what are some of the issues that typically cause conflict among family members?

Daily details: Defining what tasks should be taken on is always an area for disagreement. Some think that the senior is still able to function. Others may think that too little is being done. There may also be resentment that no one else is helping out. Family conflict resolution needs to take place quickly to keep relationships working and functional.

Past disputes: As siblings growing up, there could have been unresolved conflict between brothers and sisters. Their personalities may have clashed. Or there could have been some issue that has never been resolved, or forgiven. However, this tendency of being opposed to each other carries over, and can significantly affect the parents.

Personality of the senior parent: Some parents are mild and accommodating. Others are sharp and demanding. With increasing health and mobility problems, an elderly parent may become depressed and hard to deal with. Depending on personalities, there can often be parent/child clashes.

Accepting medical diagnosis: For anyone in a hospital bed, there is a pressing desire to know what is wrong and what can be done to heal the loved one. Many times the diagnosis is not clear. For an aging patient, having the strength to withstand harsh treatment and procedures is very trying. Often families are asked to make decisions about sustaining life if procedures don’t work. This can lead to doubts, fears, and disagreement.

Perspectives on dying: One child may be at peace with the inevitable death of a parent. Another may be anxious, fighting to keep the loved one alive. Both love their parents, but view conditions differently. Hard feelings may develop as one appears not to care. On the other hand, the one who is fearful may be accused of not having faith pertaining to life after death.

Imbalance in caregiving: If siblings are grown and have a family, their lives are already full. The responsibility of eldercare often falls on those who are single or who are in the closest location to the parents. This can lead to resentment that others are not pulling their weight. Care for seniors can be a full-time occupation. This can lead to anger and frustration, depression, sometimes extreme pressure.

Balancing immediate family with elder care: For those who have a family, there is a constant tension to split time between husband, children, and an elderly parent. As siblings request help from each other, there can be hurt feelings when a brother or sister just does not have the time. This can also cause guilt in the one not available.

Dividing inheritance: There are many opportunities for disagreement and conflict in this area. Differences in opinion can exist on the worth of each asset. There will be questions on what should be sold and what should be kept in the family. How the assets are distributed can also divide family members. The aging parents can also be offended by the responses of their children.

These are some of the issues that cause conflict among family members.  And unless there is a commitment to put aside personal preferences and agendas, resolve and forgive past offenses, and determine that only what’s in the best interest of mom or dad is what will be addressed and implemented, the prospect that an aging parent can live out the remaining years of their life with peace and dignity will be forfeited and lost.

We can all do better than that.

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