How to deal with a thorny dynamic in family-based care situations

Nov 18, 2022 | Australian Aged Care

When it comes to asking for a helping hand in aged care situations, it can be easy to assume that everyone is on board. However, we know that when it comes to the people we love, there can be a vast range of opinions. This is especially true when it involves complex emotional decisions. Or include medical, legal and financial aspects like in aged care.

Even if you’re singing from the same page, workable solutions may vary. And as humans, we can tend to over-estimate our abilities, how much time we have or what is required.

This can be a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

Family-based care situations don’t have to be full of antagonism. Indeed, those differences in opinion may help you spot problems, create more comprehensive care plans and even mitigate impacts.

Here’s how to ask for a helping hand in aged care and use that thorny family dynamic to your advantage in family-based care situations

Open the door to conversations

With a range of aged care services available at home, what a helping hand in aged care scenarios looks like can vary. Different people have different support needs. Matching those support needs with what is available in the local area from both providers and family is key.

While the conversations about family-based care situations can seem daunting, they are a fantastic way to relieve the tension before it festers. Plus, it’s much easier to get a commitment to ongoing support from the beginning and troubleshoot effectively.

Pro tip:

  • Talk sooner rather than later
  • Give yourselves guidelines on how to conduct the conversation. For example, hearing people out for five minutes without interruption helps others feel included and validated
  • Ask open-ended questions to explore the ideas further over closed questions that can shut the conversation down

And if you find yourself becoming angry or emotional, take a break or end the discussion for the day.

Focus on the situation, not the people

Most of the time, we all have the person’s best interests at heart. We simply aren’t particularly good at articulating that. We often focus on the processes and the mechanical parts of family-based care situations to the point where we forget the reasons why we’re making the decisions in the first instance.

Offering a helping hand in aged care environments comes only works if you can put your ego aside and put the person who needs you first. Avoid pre-judging someone’s ideas by focussing on the merits of the solutions

Pro tip:

Write down all the ideas on a big piece of paper. Look for common ground.

  • Do the ideas share the same values, even if they choose a different strategy?
  • How different are the outcomes?
  • What are the motivations behind these decisions and choices?
  • How can you add your strengths to help overcome the problems?

Once you start looking at the values, motivations and desired outcomes, you can begin to see where the crossover lies.

Create a plan of what care looks like

It doesn’t matter if there is disagreement or alignment in your family. Even the most resolute person providing a helping hand in aged care scenarios should be working from a blueprint.

This is where a care plan can help you. You can look at the medical, social, psychological, financial and physical needs of the person in real terms. Then, you can assign tasks, roles and identify support requirements effectively.

Together, you can ground yourselves and your ideas by working through a care plan. That way, you can design the care situation with a framework that takes the personal pressure and emotion out of it. And make use of timetables and resource allocation to help distribute the care load.

Pro tip:

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we highly recommend making use of the ExSitu Hierarchy of Values to identify what values matter most to you in a care situation. And then follow that up with a care plan to identify how to preserve those values through appropriate care and teamwork.

Remember you are still the same people

Changes to relationships can and do occur when someone ages. A diagnosis or a change in health circumstances has an ability to strip away the trappings we find ourselves caught in. It can create space for renewed relationships and/or the ability to find common ground through the support process.

That doesn’t mean everyone has to stop being themselves or has no right to speak up simply because someone’s circumstances have changed.

It is OK to exercise your boundaries if you need to. Just because someone needs help doesn’t mean they automatically get control over everyone else. Nor does it mean that the person seeking help now has to give all their rights away to the people doing the helping. Find the balance between meeting the needs of the caring role and retaining your individuality.

And recognise that family knows how to push your buttons because they installed them. it’s OK to walk away, ask for a time out and support, to excuse yourself and/or even relinquish responsibilities if the situation becomes difficult.

Pro tip:

If you have a complex relationship with family, don’t be afraid to seek counselling and support. Changing care needs are difficult to navigate for all kinds of families. The more complex the dynamic, the more challenging these care needs may be. Remember, you have to look after yourself to be able to care for others that need you.  It’s not only the person receiving care that needs a helping hand in an aged care situation!

Don’t force family-based care situations on others

If a care situation impacts one or more loved ones, you should discuss that care arrangement in full prior to setting your plans in motion. Forcing someone into a care situation or forcing care responsibilities upon a person with little to no input is not fair. It will create issues down the line.

Even if they feel these impacts indirectly, it can still cause stress, pain and feelings of exclusion from the decision-making process.

Instead, work together to find a way to manage the care situation that allows for respect and autonomy. That way, everyone is bringing their A-game instead of pain and baggage.

Pro tip:

A helping hand in aged care isn’t useful if you tie it behind someone’s back. Instead of identifying a person’s reluctance to participate as a sign you need to take matters into your own hands, give them the opportunity for input and to surprise you.

That doesn’t mean pandering to the will of a difficult person. But it does mean that you are less likely to encounter issues by not leaning in on assumption and/or covert aggression and manipulation.

 The final words on thorny family-based care situations

Always do what you can to take any form of difficult care situation and transform it into something positive.

You can help with this process by:

  • Approaching the care situation as a chance to create something beneficial. By viewing care or family as difficult, you are more likely to make the experience a self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Allowing extra time for conversations, planning and the engagement process. The more time you allow, the greater your chance to seek input and negotiate
  • Respecting other people’s feelings. Empathy, compassion and holding space for others can disarm problematic situations and lower the stress all round
  • Focussing on the future, not the history. This isn’t to stay your feelings are not valid. But it does mean you can give yourself the opportunity to move forward with fewer regrets
  • Make use of the planning tools available. Having a tool guide you through care plans and articulating values can take the focus off the emotions and the personalities.

Want more of a helping hand in aged care situations? Check out the ExSitu blog now. 

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