Family Feud

Over the last 20+ years of my career I have seen numerous families torn apart due to Hatfields & McCoysissues related to caregiving.  The saddest part about it is these feuds could have been avoided if the elderly parents had taken the time to pro-actively plan for the possibility that they could experience health related issues down the road.

Who’s to blame?

Siblings trying to manage care of their loved one tend to put the blame on each other for the challenges faced during the caregiving journey.  However; the real culpability lies with the parents they are caring for.  Over the years when I’ve spoken to seniors about pro-active planning, very few are really prepared.

Some of their responses have included:

  •  “I don’t want to burden my children”
  • “It will force them to work together”
  • “ They’ll figure it out”

In truth what they are doing is setting their children up for failure and creating the possibility that their adult children may never speak to each other again after they have passed away, especially in siblings that already have a contentious relationship.

On the flip side the adult children don’t pursue these conversations either.  Most often because they don’t know what to ask or because it’s too awkward of a conversation to have.  I’ve also had family members tell me they don’t want to appear insensitive or greedy.

Unfortunately all these “reasons” are a set up for future failure as the majority of caregiving is done in the midst of chaos as adult children are forced to react to an emergency.


Having pro-active conversations is the best course of action.  See What If for questions to help you through the conversation.

Empower them –  being pro-active about making potential future decisions for themselves creates the opportunity for honest and open discussion about what they would (or would not) want done in certain situations.

Discuss amongst yourselves – have a family meeting to discuss their decision prior to the potential emergency.  This way, even if some don’t agree with the decisions, they will follow them with the understanding that this is truly what their parent would have wanted.

WRITE IT DOWN – having the initial conversation is important but not as important as having all of their decisions written down in the form of a living will or health care power of attorney.

Re-visit the decisions – schedule a time to review their decisions every few years.  As people age what they may or may not want done can change as they watch other friends and family members who are struggling through different health issues.

Don’t put it off another day!  Schedule time with your family member today and begin the pro-active planning process.

Here are links to other resources that can help you prepare for the discussion:

For more resources visit

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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