No offense intended, but when I hear of a family riddled with distrust, anger, and even denial about their situation or condition of their parents, I most often envision a wrecked car. Can’t help it. It’s the first image that comes to mind.
There it stands: Not just dings, but serious dents, a missing headlight, duct tape holding the rearview mirror together, and so on. My job as an elder mediator is checking whether the car can travel to its destination. It’s NOT to try to repair the car.
I won’t know whether the car can travel all the way, however, until all the passengers get in the car. That may mean a disgruntled sibling or two, or a parent in denial about her health. It can take some encouragement. Some may resist. They may not want to sit next to each other. Some may want the front seat, others the rear.
Getting all of them in the car is the first task. The next is deciding on the destination: It may be how to care for Dad who denies he is coming down with dementia, lives alone, and won’t accept help from his adult children. It may consist of getting all the siblings on board, including the out-of-towners who swoop in every few months to question why Mom looks so depressed, or why her heart medicine was changed, or why she needs aides at night.
Next comes agreeing on the route. Experience demonstrates that that issue can be worked out once we turn on the ignition and see whether the car will move. In most cases it will start. Gaining traction comes with everyone agreeing on the destination and the route. That takes time:
- Should Dad age in place or move to an assisted living residence?
- How can we get brother Tom, who lives across the country, to understand that family caregiving is time consuming and emotionally exhausting?
- How do we build sufficient transparency to create confidence and mutual trust among the passengers aka siblings?
Getting to the destination, i.e., an agreement, can put a lot of mileage on the old jalopy. It can also test its durability. But in the end it’s worth the journey. The car may still stagger along, but at least the family has reached a decision(s) on care, or money, or property division, or all three.
© Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. 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 Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.