Family caregiver dysfunction is created and complicated by early life family relationships. Sometimes, the complication results from the care recipient who denies that care may be needed. Other times, the complication results from adult children who don’t see eye to eye about the care being provided for or requested by a an aging parent. Or there may be other longstanding complicating factors. Regardless of the situation, the family must come together to support caring for an aging parent.

Sometimes coming together requires the involvement of an independent professional serving as court appointed guardian or power of attorney. Absent of this as a solution, how do dysfunctional families become functional caregivers for the benefit of the care of a parent?

How do these situations arise and how can they be resolved? I wish there was a simple answer. It’s very likely that many of these caregiving issues formed years ago when the adult children were children. My book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes relates many of these situations. One of the challenges is that no matter how old the child, the parent may still see the grown child as a child. Meaning, who is this person (the child I raised) giving me orders and making ultimatums?

Early Childhood Issues Remain Years Later

How many adult children still hold family grudges because they didn’t receive the train set or the pink hula hoop from a parent? Today, the same parent wants the adult child to become a caregiver. Why should an adult child give a parent what he or she wants when the parent failed to do the same? My book trailer video called Remember When, illustrates the challenges of this situation.

Unfortunately it’s many of these small slights over the years that result in fractured caregiving relationships when a parent needs care. There is no easy answer. My recommendation is that adult children work in a non-emotional manner to negotiate the need of a parent. Again, I realize this is easier said than done. In many families there is one adult children whose behavior goes to extremes and results in ongoing drama.

How many of you know a drama king or drama queen? They exist in many families. This may be the child who had to go to extremes when younger to garner any type of attention from a parent. The dramatic behavior continues today. Drama gets attention. However, drama also results in irritation by others who prefer to act in a rational, fact-based manner. This is one example of a dynamic that results in dysfunctional family relationships.

Aspects of Dysfunctional Family Caregiving Relationships

Other dysfunctional family relationships result from parents who coddled a child. Today this child who is an adult, fails to hold down a paying job. This child moves in and out of the parent’s home because he or she is dependent on the financial and emotional support of the parent. There are also children who at age 50, have never left the parent’s home. This child may live in the basement and rarely be seen. This child never held a job, made a meal, or cleaned house because the parent enabled the child to be helpless. How does the parent believe this child will survive when the parent is gone? A common response, “I didn’t think about that. I’m going to live forever.”

There are situations of childhood abuse, where a parent abused a child who lives in a world of victim mentality. This child constantly reminds everyone what was done to he or she by mom or dad. This child is powerless to take responsibility for any aspect of life. Problems never result from his or her actions but from the actions of everyone else involved. How many times have you heard, “I’m this way because of mom or dad.” “Mom or dad ruined my life.”

In my book, The Caregiving Trap, there is information about initiating family meetings and assigning caregiving roles to family members with the goal of moving dysfunctional situations forward. Working in a non-emotional manner to develop a plan for a parent offers the greatest hope to managing family dysfunction. Yet, all family situations need a team leader. Are you ready to step up and accept this responsibility?

It’s time to move forward with a plan and to hold all family members accountable for participation. Yes I hear you — easier said that done. Believe me – it is possible!