The worst cases end up in the media like Terri Schiavo and Casey Kasem – these are families who spend years fighting with each other over the long-term care of incapacitated relatives. Although these are particularly dramatic cases, disputes over how to care for loved ones happen more often than most people realize. The arguments don’t just happen in cases where the relatives hate each other. Usually, these are loving families that disagree about what to do. The solution to avoiding these problems is for people to discuss their wishes with their family as well as sign appropriate legal documents to ensure their wishes are followed. Unfortunately, many individuals avoid this because they don’t understand all the ways this can result in family conflict.

Some of the reasons families argue include:

What kind of care does the loved one need? Family members may disagree about the level of care needed or where the care should be given. Live in help, nursing home, moving in with a child are all possibilities for someone who needs at least some care. End-of-life care is an even more emotional issue. Arguments over what kind of treatment a loved one would want are common.

How will caregiving responsibilities be shared? If there are multiple family members, often one or two end up with most of the burden, but that can lead to resentment. There are many responsibilities related to caregiving including physically checking in on the family member, taking care of chores, hiring help, researching community resources, paying for care and other expenses if the loved one can’t afford it, finding/speaking to doctors, etc. When some family members aren’t contributing, it can lead to disagreements.

Who will handle the loved one’s finances and legal matters? This is another aspect of caregiving. Someone may need to pay bills, access financial accounts, manage active assets like a business and make other decisions. This can easily result in conflict if some family members question financial and legal decisions made by the person handling these matters.

Will the primary caregiver be compensated and how? It’s easy to say that caring for a loved one should be done out of love, not money. However, the primary caregiver may need to quit or cut back on work hours, lose work-related opportunities, forego spending money on their own home and family and otherwise suffer financially. Compensating the primary caregiver is a way to share responsibilities but also can result in disagreements.

Loving families may argue over these issues and these conflicts can destroy family relationships, worsen the grieving process and have a significant financial impact if matters go to court.

If you want to avoid this happening to your family, take control of planning for your future care needs. Everyone should have basic documents providing for what happens in the event they are not capable of making health or financial decisions. A Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will and a Revocable or Irrevocable trust if needed, ensures that your wishes will be followed. These documents should also be periodically reviewed in case you do change your mind about something. In addition, start having conversations with your loved ones, doctor and legal and financial advisors so you understand the choices you are making, and you feel comfortable your wishes will be honored.

For more information on planning for the future, read our related posts: Taking Control of End of Life Decisions and Create Your Own Playbook for Aging.

If you need help planning for your long-term care, contact me for a consultation.