Aging Parents And The Blended Family That Never Blended
Second marriages, third ones, step-siblings and the issues we see at AgingParents.com are a heads-up for everyone with divorced aging parents. Those rivalries among step-siblings and the lack of cohesion in decision making can go very wrong as parents age and need help.
Sometimes the “blended family” may be blended enough to work together for the good of an aging parent/step-parent in failing health. I’ve seen it happen. When it works, it typically means that one adult child has taken on the responsibility of being the liaison between two sets of offspring and is persuasive enough to get everyone on the same page. One family of remarried parents had three kids in it from each prior marriage. The patriarch had dementia, was pretty much out of control, and was still driving, erratically and dangerously. He was going to be conserved by the court but the conservatorship papers did not mention the car, specifically. They got guidance at AgingParents.com. The six step siblings got in communication, led by the eldest sister, and worked together to get the court’s permission to remove the car. Three took the car away while the other three took Dad out for a meal. They had hired a driver/caregiver for their dad, whom he met when they returned from lunch. That was a success story.
Remarried aging parents’ adult children do not always get along
In contrast, another set of adult children were struggling with a demented father whose wife, their step-mother, thought she could care for her husband all by herself just fine. Never mind that the parents were both in their 90s and she had dementia too. Her daughter also thought no help for her step-dad was needed. He wandered into the street while his wife was watching TV, fell and had to have emergency care. Once was not enough. It happened again and he was more seriously hurt the second time. Yet his daughter got into a verbal fist-fight with her step-siblings who were insisting on getting full time care for both parents. The more rational siblings prevailed and help was hired but the conflict raged on. This family also needed help from AgingParents.com where conflict resolution is offered. Sometimes an outside, neutral person can assist them to mediate the sibling warfare and make agreements about rules of engagement. That works when all of the siblings in the not-so-blended family are willing to consider the alternative to continued warfare. Family mediation does work.
If you are an adult child of divorced and remarried parents, look ahead. When you know there is someone in the picture with whom you are likely to disagree on decisions as your parent ages, consider at least one way to prevent more distress. Family meetings (mediation) with neutral professionals with subject matter expertise can avert the battles you don’t need to fight. Mediation is not therapy. Rather, it is a way to reach agreements on some points without having to file lawsuits or end up not speaking to one another. It can take a neutral outsider’s guidance to get there. The effort is well worth it. The process may be referred to as “elder mediation” or “eldercare mediation”. If legal and financial issues are at hand, you will benefit most from a lawyer-mediator. Agreements are possible even if you don’t like the other people in the picture. Consider your options to avoid a crisis for yourself when you want the best for your aging parents.
If your family sounds like this one, get help at AgingParents.com. Our nurse-lawyer, psychologist team can help you. Call 866-962-4463 or contact us online.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN-Attorney, AgingParents.com