Sunday, July 10, 2011

Family Dynamics and the Impact on Aging Parents

One of the common themes running through both my business and this blog is the impact of family dynamics on the life of the aging parent. We all have 'it' somewhere on the spectrum --few of us have The Waltons, few of us have truly dysfunctional situations. Some of the stereotypical profiles that I've encountered are:

Practical Patty. This is the sibling that gets the job done, that finds the help the aging parent needs, and figures out the insurance issues.

Hand-wringing Hannah. This is the sibling that worries what's going to happen, imagines every possible awful scenario, and is usually immobilized.

Peter Pan. This is the one that has never grown up, the one that never plans ahead and whose head is in the clouds - and probably can't be relied upon.

Squirrelly Sam. This sibling usually has a hidden agenda. It might be that they have been planning on an inheritance as their finances aren't in good order and that underlies all their input into the situation.

Marge in Charge. This is the bossy one who tells everyone what to do - whether they want to be told or not.

I'm sure most of you can recognize some of these profiles and have long histories with your siblings. By acknowledging these issues they can be built into planning for the care of your aging parent. This is the reality of the situation, maybe not the ideal.

Some family histories and dynamics are so emotionally charged that the best option is to acknowledge that the siblings can't work together. In my experiences, the aging parent usually knows this in advance and sets up their affairs so that they are independent from their children's involvement. This situation is even more pronounced when there is a daughter or son-in-law involved that the aging parents doesn't like or trust.

The important take-away from this blog topic is for both the adult children as well as the aging parent to recognize the realities of their own family dynamics and plan accordingly. As I said in an earlier post --if you and your siblings can't get along in a non-stressful social type situation, the chances are really high you aren't going to be able to work together at a stressful, emotional point in time.

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