Family Matters: Make or break

Samuel makes the decision to move his dad to a nursing home but he has to confront his sisters who don't want to hear about it.

Make or Break (photo credit: Mike Blake / REUTERS)
Make or Break
(photo credit: Mike Blake / REUTERS)
Samuel asks: “My father is a year shy of 90. He’s led a good life but recently he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He’s become very aggressive towards my mother and the rest of the family, and I believe he can no longer stay at home. The problem is, I have two sisters who live abroad who don’t want to hear about any of it. I tried explaining that he’ll be taken care of better in an appropriate aged-care facility, but they think his close family is the one who needs to take care of him. How can I get them to support me with this move?”
No person wants to imagine a moment in which they would have to admit to the world they can no longer take good care of their parents- those same parents who took good care of them their entire life. But sometimes the reality is that the parent would be best taken care of in a new home, suited to his current needs.
Samuel's situation is even more complex, as his sisters disagree with this hard decision he's has had to make.
How can Samuel and his sisters resolve their differences?
It’s time to get together
Samuel can probably make the decision to move his dad to a nursing home without his sisters’ consent, but it seems that all parties involved want this difficult decision to be made conjointly.
Samuel’s sisters live abroad, which means they mostly communicate through the phone or the Internet. However, since this is one of the most significant decisions that the siblings have had to make together, a face-to-face conversation - a family conference - might be in order.
Samuel should use this opportunity to share with his sisters his thoughts and motives that led him to believe that this is the best option for his dad and for the entire family. This is also the perfect chance for the sister to express their concerns about the move and suggest suitable alternatives, if such exist.
The sisters may be worried about the level of care their dad will receive in his new home or about their dad feeling hurt and betrayed by his children for forcing him to move out of his own house.
When Samuel learns what his sisters’ concerns are, he’ll be able to address them and provide his sisters with the proper assurances. He can take them for a short tour at the home he has chosen, or discuss with them the advantages and disadvantages of a few different homes. He can show them a daily calendar he’s built, in which the children and grandchildren visit in the home daily.
But there is another reason to invite the sisters for a face-to-face meeting...
See it with their own eyes
Samuel’s sisters live far away and see their dad only occasionally. In all likelihood, they are unaware of the full extent of their dad’s illness.
It may be that the difference of opinions between the siblings isn’t due to different outlooks on caring for their elderly father, but rather it is caused by a lack of understanding on the part of the sisters regarding their father's mental situation.
Even if the sisters were kept in the loop and are aware of all the medical details, meeting with their father and spending a few days with him may give them a clearer picture - both of his current state, and of the extent of care he requires.
It may very well be, that as soon as they spend some time with their father, Samuel will receive their full support and understanding, without him needing to go into battle with them over this decision.
This is another one of those ‘make or break’ situations, in which handling the situation poorly can sever the siblings’ relationship. Handling the situation sensitively, on the other hand, can help strengthen their relationship for years to come.

This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.

Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. She recently published her first children's book teaching conflict resolution in the family on Amazon. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at [email protected].