The Arbor Company Senior Living Blog

Resources for Families: Settling Disputes About Senior Care

Apr 5, 2016 9:00:00 AM / Chris Harper Chris Harper

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Aging comes with its own set of physical and medical issues. However, it can also come with extra stress, crisis, and emotionally charged decisions which can lead to heated disagreements between siblings, parents, and other family members. If you find yourself in the midst of an escalated debate about senior care issues, it can make for stressful family gatherings and can cause major family rifts if not handled correctly. Here are a few of our tips for calming the storm of senior care disputes between family members.

Take a deep breath

Being in a hospital or emergency room with a failing parent, overwhelmed and scared, can be the perfect place to lash out at a sibling or other family member. In any situation that is escalating, take a moment to stop, step out, and take a breath. Removing yourself from the heated atmosphere can give you a fresh perspective and outlook; choose to reapproach the situation at another time when the situation is less urgent.

Have a sit-down

Sometimes, having a family meeting like the kind you had when you were a child can give everyone a chance to express their opinions and hear the opinions of others. Make the atmosphere nonconfrontational, opting to head to a restaurant where things won’t get too - ahem - rowdy and setting strict time frames so that everyone leaves to digest at an agreed upon time.

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Get the facts

In cases where family members are squabbling about senior living options appropriate for a parent, it can be extremely helpful for everyone to know the real needs of Mom. Family members who live far away may not realize that Mom’s memory is much worse than they realize, while nearby family members may feel like no one can care for Mom like they do. In any case, have a doctor give an unbiased report on what really is going on with Mom, along with recommendations of where they family should go from here.

Enlist a mediator

If things are still dicey with family members, it is wise to seek the counsel of a mediator. Whether this is a social worker from the hospital or a dear family friend, the mediator should be unbiased and offer opinions based on the facts after hearing all sides of the story.

Agree to disagree

Many times, you may never agree totally with the decision that is made, but once it is made, find peace in it. Senior care disputes can last for years if the siblings do not make a conscious effort to put the aging family member first, as well as to simply agree to disagree.

Don’t close the door

If you have found yourself in an estranged or otherwise tense relationship with a family member over a senior care decision, resist the urge to write off that person forever. You are, after all, family. Instead, give yourself space to heal from the situation and then leave the option open to grab a cup of coffee a few weeks, months, or even years, down the road to possible reconnect and start over.


Senior care decisions are tough, and can be even tougher when family members do not see eye to eye. Keep your loved one at the forefront of all decisions, seek the facts from the medical team, and do your best to hear all of the perspectives before settling on a final decision.

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Topics: Families & Caregivers, Resources for Families

Chris Harper

Chris Harper

As the vice president of communications for The Arbor Company, Chris is responsible for digital marketing, public relations, technology and design.

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