Family Members Not Talking
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We’ve shown how families provide the most support to seniors. As seniors get older, families are critical in providing support for seniors that want to stay home or live with family members. Therefore, family members not talking can be catastrophic. What are the issues? How do you address the issues?
Family is like utopia,
A perfect place, and
A place that can never be
CarePlanIt’s Focus When Family Members Are Not Talking
CarePlanIt focuses on optimizing a senior’s last years. This section will not help you address issues outside of this area. We don’t believe that it’s wise to try to resolve dysfunctional family issues during your parent’s last years. There are simply too many issues concerning competency and resources to throw serious family psychological issues into the mix. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done; it’s just not what we focus on. Therefore, we focus on minimizing stress and optimizing resources during a very difficult time.
A Brief Comment On Family Estrangement
Estrangements are among the most psychologically painful experiences family members can have. For example, the most dysfunctional families often end in estrangement. Although that’s not the focus of this Section, it’s worth a brief mention. Sometimes the extremes can shed light on what’s going on in the not-so extreme. For example, in the most dysfunctional situations, a family member terminates a relationship with another family member and, in some cases, the entire family.
For most of us, families help define who we are. In contrast, estrangement is the opposite of how most of us understand family. Estrangements are among the most psychologically painful experiences family members can have.
Why would we leave our parents, our siblings, or both? Because that person has experienced extreme trauma. This usually consists of neglect, abandonment, exploitation or abuse. Even having experienced trauma, estranging oneself from the family comes with its own costs. There is social stigma regardless of how necessary the estrangement. The person leaving almost always has a grief response and frequently experiences forms of depression. Because of this, most psychologists would recommend limited contact versus full estrangement.
The big issue here is that someone feels neglected, ostracized or traumatized. So they stop talking to other family members; or upset other family members with their anger that these family members stop talking to the traumatized family member. Regardless, we’re talking about serious emotional hurt. Emotional hurt manifests in many ways, and few are good. Usually, people get angry, depressed, defensive, aggressive or combinations of all of these. In all cases, communication becomes difficult.
When Does Family Members Not Talking Create Problems?
CarePlanIt focuses only on issues related to seniors and their families. We focus on a senior’s end-of-life issues. During this period, we recommend “surviving.” We don’t suggest that families try and resolve complicated and historical issues.
See our Family Communication Section here for a full discussion on how family communication can be optimized.
This article emphasizes the techniques that you and your family can utilize to optimize family resources. That’s what Carmen and I recommend focusing on at this time in your parent’s life. Remember that losing any family resources is a loss for your parent(s). Few parents want to die knowing that their children are fighting or that their children are refusing to support them in their final years.
Techniques To Survive Family Members Not Talking
Make It About Mom, Dad, or Both
Never ask a family member that’s not talking to you to help you. Keep it all about Mom or Dad.
Emphasize The Collective Effort Of The Family
As soon as you know Mom or Dad needs extra help, let the non-talking family member know. Don’t ask for anything yet, just tell them the situation.
Never Ask A Non-Talking Family Member To Help You
A non-talking family member harbors resentment toward one or more family members. Never ask them to help you. Ask them to help Mom or Dad.
Give The Non-Talking Family Member A Choice Of How To Help
The nontalking family member has issues. Ordering them to do something will just make them defensive and more likely to say no. The best way to ask is as follows:
Use The Family Member The Non Talking Member Likes Best As Spokesperson
Put the person liked best by the traumatized person in charge of any direct communication. The nontalking family members is most likely to respond to the person they like best.
Additional Resources When Family Members Are Not Talking
Resources to use when you want to know why family members don’t listen to me.
Great research report on families with members that don’t talk here.
Reasons behind family estrangement here.