As Tolstoy wrote to begin Anna Karenina, “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Family dynamics are rarely ever predictable, and conflict may take many unique forms.
This can pose a challenge for care managers who need family members to be on the same page, even when family members may be at odds with one another.
Thankfully there are steps that care managers can take to get siblings to unite behind a care goal for their parent.
In order to better understand difficult family dynamics, try looking at things from their perspective. Many families may have spent years trying to manage it on their own before finally enlisting your help, and this may very well have taken its toll by the time you meet them.
Even “happy families” might have reservations about bringing in outside help, or could be downright fearful about potential outcomes. Knowing what the potential anxieties are for a family can help forestall misunderstandings, and make it easier for you to address fears even before they’re spoken about.
Asking families up-front about how they prefer to talk about care can yield some insight into what you might expect your conversations to be like. Trusting your gut may also play a role in figuring out the best way to discuss your plans and any care updates.
Flexibility goes a long way in terms of communication as well. Younger family members may be more inclined to communicate with you via text or email, rather than through phone calls or face-to-face meetings. Older family members may be most comfortable with phone calls, rather than texting or through digital communication.
It would be great if every family member and client were easygoing. Hitting a bump in the road with a client or family is a question of when, rather than if. As unfortunate as these challenges are, they are both inevitable and potentially avoidable—at least in some cases.
If you are able to build a trusting relationship with individual family members, you might be able to enlist their help to defuse tensions. Sometimes hearing difficult news, or implementing a difficult plan, can sound more palatable if it comes from a loved one.
If it’s tough to get each sibling on board, you may want to direct all communication through one family member who’s engaged and interested in their parents’ care plan. Working with one person can help reduce the risk of miscommunication, and can make it easier for you to avoid difficult or unproductive conversations with others.
Although working with families that aren’t as communicative or collaborative as you might hope is par for the course, it doesn’t mean there aren’t positive steps you can take to make life easier. For more tips and tricks on managing family dynamics, check out Worthright’s resources library. If you have a tip, trick, or words or wisdom, reach out to us!