Updated: Jun 21
Being a family caregiver is a complex and very often overwhelming task. Time and energy quickly become depleted and soon the wear and tear can begin to affect every area of the caregivers life. Time they once had for hobbies, friends, and other activities is now redirected to what could easily be viewed as a second or even full-time job.
While delivering care for a loved one can be rewarding, there are times when conflict will rear its ugly head and make life difficult. Conflict can come from any direction and even blind side us if we're not prepared. So we want to give you, the family caregiver, a few tools you can use to stare down that ugly monster.
Conflicts About Care
If you split responsibilities with a sibling or another family member, you may find from time to time–perhaps often–arguments about caregiving duties getting in the way. This is common, as conflicts can emerge regarding scheduling, level of care, medication, and more.
It's important to facilitate open and honest communication about caregiving duties by holding meetings once a month. These don’t have to be in-person and can take place virtually to accommodate everyone’s schedule. The general point is to discuss standard operating procedures (SOP) in caring for your loved one.
Topics discussed should include but are not limited to medication schedule, upcoming doctor visits, results of medical tests, and current prognosis. Someone attending the meeting should take simple notes to refer back to. Keeping a shared document in Google Docs is a great idea as it can be accessed from anywhere using any device.
Above all else, keep an open line of communication with others providing caregiving duties. Arguing only muddies the waters and makes the entire process more difficult rather than the intended effect, which is to make it easier for all parties involved. Be open, honest, and transparent at all times.
Conflicts with Your Loved One
When you’re inside all day with the same person–no matter the situation or dynamic–there is going to be tension at times. Human beings are complex creatures with a plethora of wants and needs. Sometimes these wants and needs are drastically different from other individuals, and this is where conflict emerges.
This can be even more difficult to handle when dealing with a loved one whose needs are immediate and necessary. The relationship between caregiver and loved one can also become toxic if a loved one begins to take the caregiver for granted, taking advantage of their kindness and asking for more than they need.
Caregivers, when faced with continuing conflicts, would do best to have a focused, simple discussion. Graciously, let your loved one know that your caregiving duties are predicated on your ability to remain calm and free of worry. Stay away from any language that sounds like you’re laying down an ultimatum. Don’t demand that your loved one does as you say.
Be willing to negotiate. Come to an agreement by the end of the meeting that should a conflict arise, the two of you will speak calmly and politely to each other instead of shouting or acting passive-aggressively. Do not compromise on this treaty–if your loved one begins to act irrationally in any way, kindly remind them of your pact.
If these measures fail, it would behoove caregivers to look into outside help. An experienced, highly-skilled caregiver service like Freudenthal In-Home Care can provide assistance with care plans ranging from 10 minutes to 24 hours a day depending on your needs.
Continue to Monitor and Follow Up on the Conflict
Just because a solution has been identified and addressed doesn't mean it will just go away. As a caregiver, it's your responsibility to ensure that the conflict has truly been dealt with, and that the steps identified to reach a solution are being followed. If all seems to be going well, simply remember to stop and observe from time to time, just to see if things really are going smoothly or if there are still lingering tensions under the surface that need to be handled. If it's clear that the solution didn't work, or wasn't the right resolution for the situation, make sure to be proactive in working with your loved one or other caregivers to identify alternative solutions and continue trying to create a positive and healthy environment for yourself and the ones you are caring for.