From home to hospital to ………..?

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This might sound familiar to some of you –”Your mum’s had a fall, she’s in hospital and she can’t go home”

We suspect those words are often said each day by hospital staff to family members. The family then moves into crisis management mode. There is a sudden realisation that decisions, and urgent ones at that, need to be discussed and made. That is often made difficult by the disparate places that many adult children choose to live in this world.

Rather than attempting to form a unified family front, many families descend into family factions. Tensions rise as the crisis gives life to long hibernating enmities and resentments among the children which gurgle and bubble to the surface. Some are happy to stand back and watch and others move into ‘martyr mode’ wanting to be recognised as the ‘martyr child’ with such mantras as:

  • Mum always wanted to live near me
  • I have looked after her more than you
  • I’m her Enduring Power of Attorney so I make the decisions
  • She doesn’t like your husband
  • She can go home and I will look after her
  • She’s allergic to cats
  • She told me never to put her in a nursing home

Whatever the dynamics in your family, there is nothing like a crisis like this to test its resilience. In our many years of experience in this scenario, we think there are 3 things required:

  1. Leadership
  2. Information
  3. Plan

It takes at least one person in the family to have the insight to realise that disagreement and dispute will get neither mum nor the family anywhere. Organising a family meeting (in person, or by teleconference or skype) can be a very effective technique to focus minds and find solutions. We do family meetings in which we use an agenda for discussion and decision making that can give crucial information about the options and the foundation for an agreed plan. Of course, there will always be the black sheep, the ‘no talkies’ and the intractables in any family. We can handle them too.

We’re good at latter day ‘family planning’.

Brian Herd
Recognised as one of the leading experts in Australia on elder law, aged care, retirement, estate planning and disability and a regular author, broadcaster and popular presenter on many elder law subjects and issues.