Family+Needy Parents=?

Do you know that “family” has been compared to a mobile—a decorative hanging work of balanced art forms, popular in the last half of the 1900’s? When one of the forms is moved, weight shifts and the entire work becomes unbalanced. To correct this, something must be changed to counter the moved form’s weight.

The same holds true for families. Take a normal two-parent family with children. If one parent gets sick the other parent will try to help out, or perhaps an aunt or grandmother will come in to help keep things “normal”– to keep the balance, so to speak. So what happens when aging-parent issues cause adult children to take their time and emotional energy from the family and reallocate it to aging parents?

Possibly we all know adult children who become consumed by their parents’ problems. It’s such an easy trap to fall into. We read about it in the “Sad Story” post about Rodney and his caring, capable, efficient but overloaded daughter. I just learned there was a price to pay. Rodney’s daughter and her husband have divorced.

Bringing another person—or another person’s problems–into a family’s dynamics will affect the balance and can create problems. So it helps to keep asking ourselves “What’s the goal?” In both Rodney’s situation and the case of the older parent’s driver’s license, (last Saturday’s post) considering these relevant “Key Thoughts” in the sidebar would seem to have been a big help:

  • issues of safety,
  • whether actions and thoughts are in the best interest of the parent or whether they are undertaken to make it easier (or less worrisome) for the adult child

  • whether all possible information was studied before taking action.

Can honest discussion, guided by the key thoughts above, help reasonable people reach reasonable conclusions? While it definitely helps in many situations, the honest response is: “yes,” but sometimes “no.”

Involving an experienced professional (probably a social worker who works with the elderly and their families) can be a great help in resolving conflicts and is an excellent (and probably the least expensive) resource. Some work privately, others work in counseling services or agencies. Advantages:

· An adult child can be helped to realize and understand the impact the added responsibilities have on her/his family.

· S(he) would have support–wouldn’t feel s(he) had to “go it” alone.

· S(he) would have professional decision-making help from experts who’d “been there” with previous clients.

However, let’s face it. When we are overburdened, it’s often hard to think about doing things in any other way, but the way we’re doing them. So involving a social worker to help with aging parent-family issues may be rejected at first, yet it’s worth pursuing. There’s a bottom line to consider: the time spent with a professional counselor can save untold hours of stress and yield good results. A win-win for all.

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