Families are Complicated and Necessary

Originally posted at allaboutestates.ca on November 4, 2014:

Families always want to know if they have the most difficult family, ever. They ask if I have ever worked with such family dysfunction and ask if I know of any other families as difficult or as unreasonable as theirs.

My answer? The only normal families are the families you don’t know. What does this mean? It means there is a large spectrum within the ‘normal’ category. In over 30 years of working with families I have seen most things including love, hate, care, worry, fear and strength; and it is all normal.

While every family is unique there are some commonalities.

*Guilt: The feelings of guilt that adult children experience. Not being able to do enough. Trying to respect a parent’s wishes but struggling under the burden of an unrealistic situation.
*Worry: What if my parent doesn’t agree? What if they refuse to: accept help, use their emergency response pendant, move, take their medication, let the caregiver in the door (fill in the blank)
*Love: While this may not be expressed in words, it is often expressed in actions and emotions
*Fear: Of the unknown, of change, of letting go, of getting older and of death
*Strength: Being able to reach out and ask for assistance. Wanting to improve a situation and a family’s willingness and openness to explore different avenues.

Let me also say I have also seen abuse and neglect. I have seen families torn apart. Oftentimes, money has something to do with it. It may be a disagreement on what they feel their parent needs or paying for what their parent needs. Or sometimes it is something else altogether, perhaps a family disagreement that occurred years before, which has continued to simmer over.

However complicated families may be, we need them. Caring for each other and for older individuals takes more than one person; it takes a family and a community.

So much of what we do in our day to day work with families includes providing support, reassurance and guidance. It is always an honour to be invited into people’s lives, especially at a time of great emotional conflict. Thank you.

The role of a Geriatric Care Manager is to develop a Plan of Care for the aging adult. Our work is designed to put the senior first by assessing and understanding their care needs. While we may not be able to change the old resentments that siblings hold, we are able to put them on the same page as we develop a Plan of Care for their family member that addresses the older person’s needs for today and tomorrow.

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