Managing Conflict When Caregivers Disagree

four sisters discussing care options for loved one


When a loved one requires some outside assistance to manage the challenges of aging, family members – whether it’s grown children, grandchildren or even a spouse – may have some specific ideas on what’s best for the person involved. Often, family members may not agree on the specific approaches to providing needed care. Emotions can run high as everyone feels they are looking out for their loved one’s best interest. When conflict arises, it can be difficult to find common ground and ensure your loved one is getting the help they need.

Here are some tips to help manage family conflict and work together for your common goal – helping your loved one continue leading a life of purpose and joy.

Avoid past resentments and issues

When a loved one needs help, and other family members need to be consulted on providing solutions, unresolved family issues may get in the way of providing meaningful care. Try not to let caregiving issues become an emotional battle between family members. Revisiting and reopening long-standing family dynamic of sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, and other family issues is an easy trap to fall into. The best way to minimize these problems is to be aware of their possibility and avoid them consciously. Work with your siblings and other involved family members to focus your interactions around the older person’s needs and best interests, not other family business. If necessary, have a friend or professional counselor or care manager meet and talk with you to move the discussion along.

Understand each member’s ability to help

It helps to recognize going into the caregiving role that some people are able to give more than others. For instance, if there’s a sibling who lives nearby, it’s likely they will shoulder most of the burden of a parent’s care. Acknowledge this and try to find a way that those who live further away can contribute, either with occasional trips to relive the primary caregiver, or with financial help – which can be used to hire a home care professional. Do what you can, and support those who are doing the rest. In the end, make sure you’re practicing basic fairness in terms of the resources being spent to care for your loved one.

Be willing to improve communication among family members

When it comes to family communication, it’s never too late to improve. Even families with long histories of not communicating very well—or at all—can learn to share their views and ideas for meeting the needs of parents, grandparents, or other older relatives. If your family is “communication-challenged,” try these simple tips:

  • Look at the conflict as an opportunity to make the family stronger.
  • Embrace the rule of “fair fighting”: Share feelings without attacking or making the other person “wrong,” stay in the present and allow everybody to express themselves.
  • Understand that you’re all after the same goal – what’s best for your loved one.
  • Stick with it. Reaching consensus usually takes some work. Be willing to give it the time and effort it requires.
  • Listen to each person with respect. Be open to hearing opposing points of view without judgment and to understand each other’s ideas.

Seek outside help

If you’re unable to resolve conflicts on your own, a care manager from Pathways Care Solutions may be able to help. We are experienced in helping families resolve conflict and developing plans of action that will serve as a blueprint for providing needed care.

Categories: Caregiving