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How to support aging parents and address potential conflicts

How will your family cope when faced with the dilemmas and decisions regarding the changing health and independence of aging parents? Long term care decisions regarding a range of issues — from how to pay the bills to caregiving roles — can challenge family relationships. Take time to understand potential sources of conflict in advance. Then learn strategies to avoid or reduce the impact of these common conflicts.

Sources of conflict

The experiences of families suggest that there are seven potential sources of conflict commonly experienced.

  • Definition of problem and care needs

  • Role expectations

  • Value, attitude, or belief differences

  • Decision making processes

  • Unresolved prior conflicts

  • Lack of communication or miscommunication

  • Suitable solutions

Families may disagree about one or many of these topics. A single conflict may have multiple sources. The diagram below identifies seven potential sources of conflict that can directly impact family decision making . In real life, multiple and interwoven sources of conflict are likely to be experienced by families adding complexity.

Graphic showing the 7 potential sources of conflict described in text

Strategies to avoid conflict

Here are seven strategies to avoid or reduce common family decision-making conflicts.

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Author: Marlene S. Stum, University of Minnesota Extension specialist and professor of Family Social Science.

Reviewed in 2022

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