A paradox is a contradiction: holding as true two ideas that appear inconsistent or logically impossible. Let’s say, for example, Mom and her children agree she can no longer stay in her home. The wealthiest child insists Mom moves to an upscale assisted living residence. But the other siblings think it’s more important that Mom’s money lasts as long as she does. Mom wants both.
Deconstructing a paradox begins by examining each idea, or wing. Families facing such choices may respond by:
- Letting the richest sibling decide where Mom will reside without consulting the others. This may leave Mom with the impression that he’s the only one who cares about her, and the other kids feeling shut out; or
- Deferring to the eldest out of well-established habit. Or the loudest. Or the one who will pout if his way isn’t followed; or
- Voting and abiding by the majority.
Each method is quick and efficient, but risks leaving resentment among the others. Moreover, the result may not work out because the family failed to examine both sides of the paradox.
In mediation, families decide by consensus. Everyone contributes to the decision, and everyone assents. Getting everyone’s buy-in often takes longer and is messier, but produces a better, longer-lasting result.
A mediator can frame the question so that family members are able to examine both wings of the paradox: How can Mom move into an assisted living residence with amenities she likes and make her money last?
Steps to take:
- Ask each family member what “upscale” means to them. What does Mom really want, and what features can she live without? Maybe she wants comfort and good food, and isn’t interested in a full gym and swimming pool. Assumptions wreak havoc in families. Asking this simple question can banish those demons.
- Gather information. Share the task. Which places offer the things Mom wants, and what do they cost?
- With Mom’s cooperation, explore available resources:
- Mom’s income (Pensions, Social Security, Investments)?
- Long-term care insurance? Its provisions?
- Rent or sell Mom’s home?
- Is Medicaid available?
- Will the kids contribute?
Staff at potential residences may know of other funding sources. A financial planner can recommend ways to stretch Mom’s money. Always get Mom’s buy-in.
4. Select three possible residences that meet your agreed criteria. When you know what’s available and what Mom can afford, take Mom to lunch at each place and let her choose.
The power of paradoxical thinking is the power to make decisions that bring a family together and that work.
Beyond Dispute Associates
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
David Carlson says
What a great way to approach this issue! I see this family dilemma frequently in my practice and you’ve nailed the major issues that they all struggle with.