When Families Can't Agree on How to Care for Aging Relatives


Family Therapist: How To Move On From Your Childhood Roles
Some families go to war over disagreements about care for elderly loved ones.

A recent news article on the famous DJ Casey Kasem and the fight about his care  illustrates a problem that is likely to become more and more familiar as the population ages and caretaking becomes more widespread. While not all family feuds of this type will descend to raw meat throwing, emotions can get pretty strong. 

There is much confusion in the mind of most people about the most appropriate way to care for loved ones approaching the end of life. Remember the fears about "government death panels" when the Affordable Care Act was being debated? The goal there was to have doctors encourage their patients to think about the end-of-life and what their wishes would be regarding the type of medical care they would want their families and doctors to pursue if they were no longer able to competently make decisions.



These are not conversations that anyone loves to have. We don't enjoy thinking about our demise. Planning ahead and figuring out what we would want can, however, avoid unfortunate problems down the road.

Dementia: All Too Common

We think dementia or senility is easy to detect but it first emerges in ways that look more like depression, stubbornness or anger. As people's thinking deteriorates, their ability to make good decision also greatly deteriorates. When a loved one begins to act against their own interests, we may rationalize it as stubbornness or giving up when, often, it is just that the person is unable to tell the ramifications of their choices. By the time it is obvious that the person is no longer capable of thinking well, they may have lost opportunities to protect their health.

Often, by the time relatives take over decision making and care of a deteriorated family member, the situation is much more complicated and stressful than if they had been able to be involved earlier. If there are multiple family members involved: spouses, children, siblings, each may have a different idea of what the best plan would be.How do those differences get resolved? Sometimes harmoniously-often not.

Money Complicates Everything

When the aging person has assets that caretakers will inherit, the situation gets even more complicated. What kind of care and at what cost will be chosen? Self-interest enters and adds another layer to the plans put forward. Court battles over Power Of Attorney and Health Care Surrogacy (the legal right to make medical decisions for an impaired person) can emerge and courts are poorly equipped to make complex evaluations and decisions in these matters.

Family Members At War

Many families have internal feuds and having to make complex health decisions when the family members haven't worked well together before is quite challenging. We all see things from our own perspective. Family members living with or living close to the ailing person may have a completely different view of things than those living farther away and not involved in day-to-day care. Not all parents are wonderful, loving people. How are decisions made when Mom or Dad wasn’t really that great a person in the past.

Viewed in this context, the extreme incidents reported in the Casey Kasem case are not too surprising. Expect to hear more "celebrity finales" in the same way celebrity divorces and breakups are covered today.

More family therapist advice on YourTango:


Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Dr Robin Goldstein


Dr. Goldstein is a licensed psychologist with over thirty years experience helping individuals free themselves of fear and anxiety and living their best life possible.She has worked extensively with couples, helping them maximize the potential for joy in their relationships as well as working with people suffering the grief of separtion, divorce and loss from ones they love.


Please visit my blog at www.robingoldstein.net/blog

Follow Dr Goldstein on Twitter at www.twitter.com/drrgoldstein

Location: Boca Raton, FL
Credentials: EdD
Other Articles/News by Dr Robin Goldstein:

The Right to Die: A Healthy Choice?


Brittany Maynard chose assisted suicide The plight of Brittany Maynard and her articulate YouTube video have focused a great deal of attention on the question of the "right to die." This well educated, happily married and attractive 29 year old raised public awareness by using modern media to communicate her wishes and to advocate for her position ... Read more

Are You a Trophy Wife? Look Out For These Signs


It's the Cinderella story. You marry the man of your dreams and he's a prince, otherwise known as rich enough to support you so that you don't need to work for a living and can spend your life eating bonbons and living a life of leisure. Is this fairy tale all it's cracked up to be? Not necessarily. What are the downsides? There are ... Read more

How To Talk To Your Psychiatrist About Your Depression


How to Talk to Your Psychiatrist About Depression I am a psychologist. I am a doctor but not a medical doctor and I provide psychotherapy, not medication. Still, I refer many patients with depression to MD psychiatrists to provide medication to help with depression. Modern anti-depressants can truly be life saving medications. While many (mistakenly, I ... Read more

See More

Latest Expert Videos
Must-see Videos
Most Popular