Home care decisions and family dynamics can become matches and gasoline if not acknowledged and addressed. The gasoline, being the family dynamic, goes quickly from liquid to fire when the match is added. The metaphor might sound overly dramatic, but the point is, families facing a crisis over an aging parent, can become families at war.

Often our calls to Hanson Services Inc. come from a daughter-in-law frustrated over her in-laws’ care, and the inability of the family to agree on a care plan or make a decision. An outsider (the daughter-in-law in this case) can see a solution but doesn’t have a voice within the family dynamic. She can’t pursue the solution without risking the animosity that comes from “overstepping her boundaries” within the family. But it is not always an in-law who is the outsider or doesn’t have a voice in the family dynamic. I recently heard an interesting (and very funny) talk at a Lakewood Hospital Community Advisory Board meeting. Dr. Margot Eves from the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Ethics, Humanities, and Spiritual Care discussed the importance of having an Advanced Care Directive (different than a living will). She cited family dynamics that may lie dormant until there is a crisis. Family members in crisis can return to the roles they had as children. Birth order becomes a determining factor in decision making regardless of one’s profession. The” baby” is back to being the baby, the bossy one is bossy, the martyr is the martyr, etc.

Lakewood Hospital is urging everyone, not just those who are ill or elderly to make a plan. It is simple to do and will keep old emotional baggage in check. From a Hanson Services perspective, we encourage families to designate a spokesperson. This doesn’t have to be the decision maker, just our contact person. It eliminates the miscommunication that happens when two family members have conflicting requests. We are happy to help you put together a care plan. We share the common goal of keeping your loved one in a safe, enriching environment. A healthy family dynamic can be born out of a crisis when everyone pitches in to the best of their ability. A financial contribution can buy respite care for a stressed out, burned out family caregiver who is giving time and energy. A four-hour break three times a week costs less than dinner for two at many restaurants and helps keep the family in balance emotionally. You can find tips on forming a family plan here: How to get started on a care plan Starting Care.