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HORIZON BLOG

When Siblings Disagree About Dad's Future

 

Question

"My father is 91 years old and living independently in the home he grew up in. Yes, he was actually born there almost a century ago! His parents built it. As you can imagine, the family thinks of it as the homestead.

Thing is, Dad has lived a long life and is now not so independent as before. We’re not sure that he’s safe alone. We have someone coming in to clean and tidy things up once a week. We four children do all the yard work and solve major problems that arise.

Here comes the issue. Some of us feel that we should find ways to preserve the family home and keep Dad in it. The other half think Dad should move to a place that offers care if he needs it, which he surely will at some point. No one wants to talk to Dad about it. No one. 

My question – are we jumping the gun here? Should we be talking to Dad?"

 

Answer

The short answer is maybe, and yes. I understand that your father is entering the last years of his life and may need care at some point in the future. Doing research and exploring options is always a great idea. 

What’s important here is that your father be part of the conversation. If he’s independent and of sound mind, future planning should be done with him. While it’s okay to collect information and look at all the choices, not including him is a disconnect. Usually when we don’t include a parent, it’s because we want to avoid conflict. In other situations, we simply don’t want to verbalize the harsh reality of the situation. We fear the disappointment or sadness that might ensue. 

Remember, these are not one-and-done conversations. This is a topic to discuss or mention periodically. For example, if the yard work is getting to be too much, begin mentioning to dad that it may soon be time to hire help to maintain the yard. Do this gradually. Mention it in passing at first. Bring it up again a couple of times. Then after three or four mentions, ask dad how he feels about getting help for one of the tasks, like lawn mowing. Springing it on your father and attempting to secure an immediate answer or solution is too abrupt. I assure you, he will be thinking about it after your first mention, and more so after two or three. When you’re ready to request some real help, he will likely have already made peace with that possibility. He may protest a bit, but you have a greater chance for acceptance this way.  

If it’s time for personal care and it’s a non-emergent situation, you start by discussing options with your father. Again, start slow yet with gentle persistence. If he’s reasonable, he’ll consider your thoughts and gradually see the need.

There are those who stand their ground and refuse all needed care. They scream, swear, and possibly throw you out. Those people usually move to another level of care after a crisis forces the decision. If your father falls into that group, go ahead and explore options but be prepared to enact one of those options after a crisis happens. 

As you know, change is difficult for all of us. New jobs, marriage, children and then empty nesting are all times that require us to make tough choices, and we struggle to. Your father is approaching one of those big life decisions. There are numerous options for staying in his home or moving to some form of retirement/assisted living arrangement. Do your best to be an ear and a support as he navigates this phase of his life. Approach in the way you would like your children to if you were that age. Your greatest chance for success is frequent communication, being in close proximity on a regular basis, and being a good listener when you’re with him. 

You also need to consider how important this homestead is to your family. Talk with your father and siblings about the future of that property and whether it factors into his future care and location. 

Do your best to rally the siblings and show your children how a family can work together to find a solution that works for everyone. 

 

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