Last Updated: June 4, 2024

When it comes to aging parents, certain topics are often at the forefront of the conversation – senior living, health care, and financial planning, to name a few. 

However, there is one topic that is very common but not as openly discussed: family conflict. 

This type of conflict usually occurs among adult children as their parents or family members go through the aging process. Disputes can also occur between parents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, or others. Disagreements often stem from the stress, sadness, denial, anger, or uncertainty people often feel when their loved ones start to need help.

Family conflict over aging loved ones is especially prevalent in the state of Florida, which has such a large senior population. In fact, family conflict became such an issue that the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts launched the Elder Justice Initiative on Eldercaring Coordination. This dispute resolution process was specifically created for families experiencing conflict over the care, autonomy and safety of Florida seniors.

Clearly, family conflict over aging loved ones is a real issue that impacts seniors. While it is not uncommon, it can be prevented with the proper preparation, communication, knowledge, and guidance.

This article will cover several aging-related topics that can lead to family conflicts, and how to best solve or prevent these issues. After all, the best outcomes for seniors occur when there is harmony and teamwork among their adult children. 

Situations that Can Lead to Family Conflict

adult siblings arguing

1. Problem: Uneven balance of caregiving responsibilities

Adult children of seniors often have to handle many matters related to their aging parents. These can include taking on the role of a family caregiver, accompanying parents to medical appointments, making healthcare decisions, managing finances, driving them to all their obligations, managing their nutritional needs, performing household maintenance and chores, and many other duties.

When multiple adult children are involved, it is natural for one child to take on more of the caregiving load than the others. This is often the case when one child lives much closer to their parents than the others.

But when these duties are not evenly distributed among the children, some start to develop feelings of anger or bitterness toward their siblings.

Solution: When feelings of bitterness and resentment start to develop, have a civil discussion with your siblings about the issue. Rather than being accusatory, try to make a plan to solve the problem. 

Write out all the responsibilities required for taking care of your aging parents, and specifically delegate each duty to certain people. Make sure everyone is on board with the agreement and is assigned a role that is achievable for them. Keep the list somewhere everyone can access it, whether it be a printed copy for each family member, or even a shared Google Doc. Plan to have frequent check-in meetings to make sure everyone is doing their part and discuss any concerns that have arisen.

For example, one child who lives nearby can be in charge of driving their parents to appointments, while another child who lives farther away can take on the role of managing their finances. Or, if one person is unable to physically help, perhaps they would be willing to contribute financially to help make the other children’s roles a little easier – whether that be by paying for respite care, a geriatric care manager, hospice care, or another service. 

 

2. Problem: One sibling is being excluded from the decision-making

Sometimes, one child will take over most of the decision-making for their senior parents, causing the other siblings to feel as though they are being left in the dark about these important issues. 

Solution: In these situations, communication is key. In a calm manner, tell your sibling how you are feeling. It could be that they are simply unaware of their actions. Or, they might have thought they were making their siblings’ lives easier by not involving them. Explain your point of view and that you want to be more involved in matters relating to your aging parents. From there, you can work together to make an arrangement that you are included in.

two adult brothers fighting

3. Problem: Disagreements about the amount of care needed

For some people, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that their parents’ needs and abilities are changing. This can lead to denial or avoidance of the situation – which is not only harmful for the seniors, but can also cause disagreements between adult children.

In other situations, some adult children may believe their parents are able to safely age in place in their own home, while others may think senior living would be the best choice.

Solution: Sometimes a professional outside opinion is all it takes for people to come to an agreement about their parents’ care needs. Consult your parents’ doctors for a professional report about their health status and changes in ability. 

It is also wise to contact an expert senior advisor like Florida Senior Consulting to conduct necessary assessments and make professional recommendations for the senior. A senior advisor can also help inform about all the possible options, whether that be in-home care or senior living

Along with involving outside sources, siblings can work together to research the situation at hand. For example, if the seniors are experiencing memory issues like dementia, adult children can research this topic to learn what level of care is often recommended in these situations. This method is always a good place to start and helps everyone be on the same page about their loved ones’ needs.

adult kids meeting with a professional advisor

4. Problem: Disagreements about end-of-life care and estate planning

Estate planning and end-of-life care can be uncomfortable or delicate topics to discuss. Because of their complexity, these matters can often lead to disagreements among adult children.

Solution: In these tricky situations, it is often best to leave the decisions up to your parents. If possible, have them choose a power of attorney and set up advance directives like a living will and health care surrogate designation before a crisis occurs. This will prevent any future conflicts that could arise among family members if these designations are not in place.

If a crisis occurs and your parents do not have these documents or their estate in order, it is best to contact an elder law attorney, a financial planner that specializes in elder affairs, and possibly a family mediator to help with inheritances. These professionals can help get the situation sorted out without the risk of a conflict developing between family members.

Next Steps for Adult Children to Help their Aging Parents

happy family with adult children

Don’t let conflicts about your aging parents tear your family apart. In difficult times, it is important for families to come together so the seniors in your life can receive the best care possible. This positive outcome is only achieved when the adult children work together as a team. After all, as Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

If you and your family need guidance on how to best help your aging loved ones, always contact a professional. Florida Senior Consulting will help you every step of the way, from deciding the right plan for care, finding the best assisted living community, packing, moving, and everything in between.

Our expert senior advisors are local to Florida and will help you and find the best care possible.

Call (800) 969-7176 or visit FloridaSeniorConsulting.com to get started today.

Senior living on your terms. The choice should be yours.

Contact Florida Senior Consulting

(800) 969-7176