This article was published in the Rochester Woman Magazine, September 2003.

Eldercare Conflicts: Who Comes First?

By Carolyn T. Bryson, Family Mediator

Dear Wendy:

I am concerned about the growing tension between us, as sisters. Once again, I am the one who is taking time off from work to take dad to all his doctor appointments. I am the one he calls when he is upset about missing mom and having the Sunday Blues. I feel taken advantage of. I am also discouraged by our constant arguments about where dad should live and about his finances. To make things worse, dad is aware of our conflicts and is very upset about it. Please, we have to talk!!



It can be an immense responsibility to assume the role of a primary caretaker for your aging relative. And, for those of you who have children (often referred to as "the Sandwich Generation"), it potentially means double duty. Running errands, juggling schedules, racing between work and home, managing two households and being available "24/7" can be overwhelming and exhausting. In addition, there are many eldercare issues that require research, supervision, financial resources and support. Often resentment occurs when one adult child feels taken advantage of because these responsibilities are not shared equitably. Or, disagreements between siblings arise about what is in the best interest of the older adult. Relationships between family members can become very difficult, and, if unresolved, can lead to permanent bitterness. Ultimately, the aging relative becomes very upset because they see family members fighting and arguing about them and their care.

What do you do when family members cannot make agreeable decisions regarding their aging loved-one? How do you:

a.. Address physical and emotional health needs of your older relative
b.. Designate someone as power of attorney and determine adult guardianship when the aging adult becomes unable to 

     make their own decisions
c.. Manage your aging relative’s finances and home maintenance
d.. Protect your aging relative from unwelcome solicitors and scam artists
e.. Determine where your aging relative should live, both short-term and long-term
f.. Arrange long-term medical care, when your aging relative becomes ill
g.. Handle retirement investments, estate and tax issues, real estate and family valuables
h.. Resolve disputes involving inheritances, Wills and estates, daily care and shared responsibilities

Arrange a Mediated Family Meeting

Consider using a neutral, third-party mediator to facilitate family meetings, one who is not emotionally involved or has a vested interest in the outcome. Select either a professional mediator or a geriatric social worker who is skilled and experienced in facilitating group meetings and has specific professional mediation training in eldercare, adult guardianship and family issues.

Generally, the process involves three phases. Phase I is the pre-meeting preparation, which involves data collecting, deciding who will participate, selecting a neutral location, conducting research, identifying the issues that need to be discussed, and preparing proposed solutions. Phase II is the actual meeting or series of meetings, in which the mediator will facilitate discussions, keep discussions focused and progressive, help participants hear each other and consider each other’s point of view, and finally map out action items and timelines that are agreeable. The final phase is the post-meeting follow-up, to ensure that agreements are being followed through and assess whether the needs of the older relative are being met satisfactorily to the participants.


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