(This post was originally published on March 20, 2017.)
It should come as no surprise that humans are living longer, on average, throughout the world. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (“AARP”), people aged 60 years or older now outnumber children aged five or younger.
“In many cases, people will spend more time and resources caring for their aging parents than they did raising their own children”, AARP Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) Jo Ann C. Jenkins said in The Journal, an AARP publication distributed to attendees of the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations (“UN”).
Where aging parents have more than one child, this can become problematic. Where will the parents live? Who will provide the care? What kind of care is appropriate? Who determines that?
Here’s how one family used the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process to narrow the issues and create new conversations around aging.
“[M]ost conversations around aging still view it as a problem to be solved.”
~ Jo Ann C. Jenkins, AARP CEO
Action One: Define the Conflict
Olivia, her sister (Julia), and her mother (Christine) seem at times to disagree about what Christine needs to live her life.
Action Two: Identify the Interests
Olivia wants her mother to maintain as much independence as possible. She believes Christine’s independence is part of what keeps her alive. She thinks it’s disrespectful and unnecessary to make decisions for Christine at this stage, yet she and Christine have discussed documenting her advanced medical and financial directives. Olivia wishes Julia would stop dumping all of her troubles on her, assuming Olivia has none of her own, and she wishes all three of them could have frank, fair discussions about Christine’s immediate needs, as well as potential future care.
Olivia is trying to understand and have compassion for her sister, despite the frequent verbal attacks that trigger Olivia’s past trauma. Olivia considers that Julia might want to be the best daughter to make reparations for a past that still haunts her. She trusts that Julia believes she is “doing the right thing” by babying Christine, even if it reduces some of her independence. Olivia knows Julia thinks of herself as a victim, by default. She shouldn’t be surprised by Julia’s pleas of martyrdom. Olivia doesn’t know what Julia wishes would happen with Christine: death, nursing home confinement, assisted living, time travel, or something else.
Then there’s Christine. She and Oliva have had many deep conversations over the years. Olivia is fairly certain Christine wants to be in her home until death, if at all possible. Yet Christine might think she is doing better at home than she truly is. Like Olivia, Christine sometimes believes she needs no one and makes her life harder than it needs to be. Olivia sees Christine sometimes conflicted (as we all are) between wishing someone would take care of her and that everyone would leave her alone to live her life.
Christine seems to know who to call on, depending on her mood. Julia values being nurtured, if not a little spoiled, over independence. Christine calls her to fulfill those needs. Olivia values self-sufficiency and freedom. Thus, Christine calls Olivia when she needs to remember how strong she is.
Action Three: Play with the Possibilities
If she could have this conflict resolved in any way possible, Olivia would prefer to have a family meeting and work out plans together. Ideally, her other sister and at least one cousin would be involved in the discussions, too.
Action Four: Create the Future
- Olivia will request the family meeting and travel to be there in person
- She will still maintain her boundaries and ensure she is meeting her own needs despite her contributions to her family
- She will listen to her family members with her Third Ear, but she will not take their verbal abuse or allow emotional manipulation
Action Five: Stay on PARR
Olivia will Plan, Act, Revise, and Repeat until she and her family find the best resolution(s) for their differences as they arise.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.
~ Mother Theresa
Are you and your family members struggling to agree on your parents’ care?
A mediator might be able to help you determine, as a team, what is wanted and needed.
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is an employment attorney, ethno-religious mediator, conflict resolution coach, and diversity trainer based in New York City. Her goal is to keep managers and small business owners out of court and build their conflict resolution skills–so everyone has a better work experience. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), and Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).