How to overcome a family issue?
March 12, 2012 9:51 AM   Subscribe

How should I ease myself out of the family conflict?

My father is the only caretaker of my grandparents (father's side). My father's two younger siblings (my uncle and aunt) are having a huge fight with my father due to my grandmother's illness.

My father, as a sole guardian of my grandmother at the hospital, wants to bring back her health at all cost. My aunt said something like "Forget the treatments. She needs to be in a retirement home until she rests in peace." that upset my father. My uncle does not want to give any supportive money to the treatment which also offended my father. This has generated a huge mistrust, shock and conflict among my father's siblings.

This has made an extremely depressing situation both for my dad and me. So far, my father has never been eating food for a week now. My father is a divorcee so he has no one to lean on except for his son (me) who lives very far away from him.

I'm worrying about everybody right now? How can I handle this situation?
posted by sanskrtam to Human Relations (9 answers total)
It's an upsetting situation and I'm so sorry you're all going through it. Sad to say it, but you can't "handle the situation", you can only take care of yourself and offer moral support to your dad. Neither of you can change his siblings, he can only say what, as "sole guardian", he thinks is right for your grandmother and ask for their help doing htat.
posted by ldthomps at 10:16 AM on March 12, 2012

Please note that I am extremely biased in these matters, due to personal experience. Mileage may vary, etc. That being said:

Why do you want to ease yourself out of the family conflict?

I recently saw a family in which half the kids were ready to send their mother to hospice, and the other half were like "You're out of your minds, let's try decent medical care first?" She is (currently) alive and kicking and at home. And improving.

Why does it matter, since your father is the guardian? Presuming if this is the U.S., she has Medicaid to pay for her medical care--the best insurance available, in many ways. Tell him to get up and fight. And join him. It's your family too.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:29 AM on March 12, 2012

Have you talked to your father about what the realistic expectations are? If your grandmother is actually at a stage where pallative care is a reasonable option, the doctors who are working with her may be able to put your father in touch with someone on staff who helps manage these situations. If he is right about being able to restore her health (at least somewhat) then he needs facts to make a case with your aunt. If he is wrong and its time to prepare for the end, he and your aunt can work together on this.

This all depends on your location, somewhat. However, it may help your father to try and get the facts and be rational. Typically, things are not cut and dried, but he should be able to get a handle on what can be expected generally.

This is a very difficult time, and sometimes people like your father and your aunt grab a hold of an answer and cling to that answer rather than wrestle with the uncertainties.

I hope your grandmother is comfortable and that you don't feel guilty for living so far from your father.

If yiu are regularly calling or emailing your father, perhaps yiu could discuss what he would want you to do for him in a similar situation. Thinking his role as guardian from that perspective may give him some peace.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:29 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, help your father come up with a game plan (using Lesser Shrew's advice). Help him research his options. Leave out the sibling drama if you can, for now. Having your grandmother taken care of should ease your fathers worries enough, that, hopefully, he can deal with the siblings later, or, if enough action towards the positive is seen by them, maybe they will come around on their own.
posted by Vaike at 10:44 AM on March 12, 2012

It sounds like your dad has the practical things under control (he's the only one with legal decision making power), but he's finding it difficult that his siblings disagree with his choices.

I think all you can do is encourage him to think about and understand how his siblings' responses can also come from a place of love and responsibility - if you think that they are. Not wanting to spare no effort does not mean not caring - giving up on medical efforts can be an expression of great care and love.

If you think that their responses are not actually care-driven, then I would encourage your father to contextualize all of this from his oldest sibling place. He's still the big brother and unfortunately the task of being the grown up may fall to him. Maybe he will deal better with his siblings he can bring himself to a place of compassion for them: Losing a parent and all its attendant circumstances can bring out the childishness in people, and his little siblings are stressed and acting out and it's a stressful time and maybe what they say and do right now does not reflect who they really are.

Maybe actually you and he think that maybe this does reflect who they really are - i.e., they're not the people your father wanted them to be, but they are actually selfish and thoughtless people.

If that's the case, I would encourage your dad to put aside that question for now and deal with what's in front of him. If it turns out his siblings are not people he's proud of and not people he trusts, he can deal with that after the worst is passed with his mother, when he himself will hopefully be less stressed and more able to decide on a good way forward towards whatever relationship he feels is possible or desirable with them. But he doesn't have to figure that out now. For now he needs to keep taking care of himself so he can take care of his mom. Maybe help him come up with a mantra that he can repeat to his siblings as necessary: "Thank you for your input. I know you love mom. I love mom too. I'm doing what feels right to me. I don't want to discuss it any more." (or some variation on that).

This is such a hard time, and it's not the time to make any unnecessary final judgments or harsh decrees.

In the mean time, you can be there for your dad by calling him on the phone and being available when he wants to talk, by validating his feelings while encouraging him to think compassionately towards his siblings and delaying any final judgments, and by supporting his decisions about your grandmother's care.

It sounds like it might not be a good idea for you to engage this question directly with your aunt and uncle, but it might be a good time to reinforce the family bond by being in touch in general and expressing love and connection.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:17 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

So I am guessing that your father can't go ahead with his plans for your grandmother's treatment without financial help from your uncle and maybe your aunt as well? Ultimately, he can't make that decision for them. Would it help for him to find a doctor sympathetic to his plans and organize a meeting with your uncle and aunt led by the doctor? Is there a clergy person (priest, imam, minister, etc.) they all trust who might "chair" a meeting to discuss?

In any case, your father needs to take care of himself. If he won't eat and sleep for his own sake, he needs to stay well so that he can be strong for your grandmother.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:19 AM on March 12, 2012

If your father's plans are supported by your grandmother's doctors, and he can go ahead with them using only his own financial resources, he should act now and let your aunt and uncle come to agreement or not in their own time. This is the kind of thing that can split families apart for sure, but if your father can stand firm and try to keep his disappointment with your aunt and uncle out of the discussions, they may change their views.

Now if your father's plans are not supported by the doctors, that is going to be a very different situation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:26 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi. Your father isn't coping. Are his parents living with him?

Why don't you gather full information from him? Gather both grandparents' current diagnoses and medical histories; their drugs; their deficits and the compromise to independent living.

Question your father about their daily-care requirements. What's involved? Does he do hands-on care himself? What professional assistance do his parents attract?

In particular take down details of the treatment or procedure that has (obviously) been recommended for your grandmother (along with it's cost) ...

... and seek out a geriatric nurse practitioner in your area for advice on how to improve the quality of life for not only your grandparents, but your father too.
posted by de at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2012

oops ... Then talk to your father about practical things he can implement while he trouble-shoots raising the cost of treatment (if that is a realistic option).
posted by de at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2012

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