When an aging parent needs help, it’s the family who steps in to provide the needed care. What happens when family members disagree about what should be done? What happens when there are disputes about what type of care is needed and who will provide that care?
This scenario is more common than you might think. There’s nothing like an elder care crisis to resurrect simmering sibling rivalries and ancient power struggles. If you’re in this situation (or think you might be someday), what can you do?
Working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm is one option. To find out how having a Life Care Plan can make it easier for families to better navigate these situations, we turned to Elder Law Attorney Jerry Rothkoff and Elder Care Coordinator Kathleen Magee, both with Rothkoff Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Lack of knowledge plays a big part in family conflicts. “Most people have no idea what resources are available for an older person who needs help, and I think that’s a big part of what drives people to their differing opinions,” said Kathleen. “When some people think “help,” what comes to mind is putting their loved one in a nursing home. But that’s not the only option. These days, there are many different levels of support that are far less restrictive than nursing home care, such as in-home care for a few hours each day or relocating the older adult to an independent living or assisted living environment. An elder care coordinator can educate everyone in the family about all the options. This goes a long way to minimize conflict.”
Kathleen believes that impartiality is one of the most powerful things an elder care coordinator can bring to a feuding family. “We're a neutral third party who is looking out for the older adult’s best interests,” she noted. “We're not there to take sides with one particular family member. We're there to advocate for our client, present resource options, educate family members about those options, and then help them make an informed decision.”
Jerry agrees that working with an elder care coordinator in a Life Care Planning Law Firm can help a bring a family to consensus, but he acknowledges that gentle facilitation has its limits. “The vast majority of family disputes predate our involvement, so we focus on uniting the family toward a common goal: deciding what’s best for the older adult,” he explained. “Most family disputes have little to do with the care of the older adult. Usually, it's related to some control issue where someone feels left out, or they feel like their opinion doesn’t matter. If we concentrate on what's best for the older adult, we can usually get somewhere.”
When family members are not open to working cooperatively and cannot focus on the elder parent’s care and well¬being, families may require a different dispute resolution process that goes beyond what working with an elder care coordinator can provide. However, in the vast majority of cases, the guidance of an elder care coordinator is exactly the support a family needs to reach consensus.
“Working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm makes it much easier for a family to focus on what's in mom or dad's best interest,” Jerry added.