How to Choose Help For Dad Without Fighting the Family

How to Choose Help For Dad Without Fighting the Family

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Dad needs help. Maybe he can’t take care of his house…The hospital’s discharging him, and he can’t go home…He lives with you, but his health is failing fast.

Whatever the situation, you’ve been looking at assistance options—and now it’s time to bring your family on board.

You all need to talk.

Of course there will be strong opinions, but wouldn’t it be cool if it were like those collaborative board games where you don’t try to win against each other?

Instead, you work together to beat the game!

What a cool discussion where your whole family collaborates. So, in the end, everyone—especially DAD—wins!

Grab some snacks, and let’s see how that would look.

1.   Where Will You Set Up the Card Table?

You need a spot for this family discussion.

BIG HINT: Text messages and Facebook are NOT good options!

If you want to post a selfie stating, “Family reunion: great food, fun games, and a good discussion,” that’s sweet.

However, try to play the game on cyber-streets?

Yes, every one of your best friends online will support you, but they don’t have skin in the game. So let’s keep the players down to those who do—your family cohorts.

Okay, if not on social media, where IS a good location to talk?

That depends on your family.

If possible, play face-to-face. It’s easier to strategize when you’re all in the same room.

  • Try dinner at a local diner: No one has to worry about cooking, and if sentiments start to run high, restaurants help everyone relax.
    Besides, intermittent refills from the waitress can give that needed break—a chance to re-align.
  • Prefer some place more private? Grab pizza and host it at one of your homes.  Before you get started, though, why not try a “pre-game” warm-up. Laugh through a few iconic family stories and childhood pictures. It’ll do a great job of building solidarity.

Can’t get together physically?

  • Try a group Skype or conference call.
  • If you really need to express your thoughts on paper, create a group email. But remember, they can’t read your tone or your expressions, so use your words carefully. A good bet? Ask your spouse to read it before hitting send.

Wherever you plan to discuss it, try to talk before Dad’s position is critical and the game’s over before you started.

2.   Choose Your Dealer

You might need someone neutral in the game, like the card shuffler. One person who ISN’T emotionally involved.

Your family communicates beautifully? That’s great.

But if your family is human, consider asking a trusted mediator to join you. No, this is probably NOT a good job for the waitress. But maybe your pastor or a local counselor…

Hey, if everything goes smoothly, he’ll get to enjoy a meal and hear stories about the time you got a pea stuck in your nose. But if things get emotional, it’ll be good to have someone unrelated who can call for a rule check.

3.   Lay Out Your Strategy

If you’re going to beat the game, you must have a plan.

Meeting at home? Grab thick markers and a large sticky easel pad (think, “giant Post-It”) like what you might see in a classroom.  Stick several pages to the wall, so everyone can see the ideas as you go. If you’re at a restaurant, just write on notebook paper.

What to plot?

List Concerns for Dad’s Health

  • Is he forgetting things?
  • Is he depressed?
  • Is he struggling physically?

List ANY Possible Solutions

By the way, NO Judgments while brainstorming! Need suggestions? Check out assistance options in Wisconsin.

  • In-home care?
  • Adult Day Center?
  • Moving in with one of you?
  • Assisted Living Facility?

List Pros and Cons (i.e. Concerns) for Each Possibility

Again, now is NOT the time to debate. Just write everyone’s thoughts down.

  • Can the option provide what he needs medically, mentally, socially, physically, emotionally?
  • What will it cost? (Not just talking money here…)

Yes, it’s okay if some ideas come from the heart and some from the head!

4.   Identify Your Characters

Often in collaborative games, you’re given a card telling you your expertise. So look around the room and see what you’ve got.

  • Your sister’s a nurse? What’s her concern for Dad’s medical needs?
  • Your brother’s the accountant. How are Dad’s finances?
  • You’re a counselor. Does Dad have friends?

But just because you’re the expert in an area, DON’T assume others have no moves to make.

Yes, your cards give you special insight, but your aunt may have played before. So explain your knowledge with patience and grace, then listen with humility.

After all, it’s easier to convince someone of something if you haven’t shut them out of the game.

5.   Take Turns

Thankfully we aren’t playing Uno here, so no one gets skipped.

To make sure it stays that way, it’s time to set the clock for some 5-on-5.

The rules are simple:

  • Each person gets five minutes to talk–without interruption.
  • What’s everybody else doing? They’re listening. Really listening.

(Okay, the concept is simple. If the practice is hard, keep reading!)

  • When five minutes are up, it’s someone else’s turn.
  • When you’ve gone around the board, you can start again.
  • Feel free to add notes from these rounds to your planning paper.

6.   Believe in Your Team

It’s easy to feel passionate when it comes to Dad, to feel that what you want for him is the best.

But while you’re listening—and when you’re responding—assume the best of your fellow players. Hear the heart behind their concerns.

And remember the warning most recently quoted by George W. Bush:

“We judge ourselves by our best intentions and others by their worst actions.”

7.   Stand Side by Side, Not Nose to Nose

If you’re playing Monopoly, it’s supposed to be cutthroat. He who ends with the most land wins.

But that leaves everyone out in the cold. Especially Dad.

So how do you unite together to help him succeed?

Don’t just hear words. Try to understand where everyone’s coming from. All those clichés that Dad repeated for years come into play here: Walk in their shoes. Put on their sunglasses.

Some things to try:

  • Restate their points back to them
  • Rephrase what they’re saying in your own words
  • And, maybe more difficult, but worth it—Switch sides and try to debate for THEIR argument and AGAINST your own.

Who knows—the game might seem very different from the other side of the board.

8.   All Pawns Are the Same Size

You may have different colors, but your game pieces aren’t any different. Yet if you make it about who debates the best—thinks the fastest, stays the least emotional, expresses themselves the cleverest—they might give in and let you control what happens to Dad. For now.

But the next time, they won’t want to play your game.

So don’t pick on the delivery or how something’s expressed. (e.g. If they literally use “literally” wrong, that’s okay.)

Look for harmony. It makes for a much more pleasant game.

9.   When There’s No “Go” to Pass

It’s late, you’re all exhausted, and you just can’t come to a consensus for how to move. Now what?

Sometimes you need time to process the board on your own, without someone trying to convince you.

How long will that take? Well, try ordering another pizza. 

Or you might need to schedule another time to consider options. That could include interviews or actual tours for some of your assisted living options.  (Need to know what to look for on a tour? Check out the explanations in this post. You can also print off this easy list.)

10.  Remember, You Win or Lose Together

In the end, a board game is just that. A game.

But this is your family!

No matter where you leave off tonight, take a moment to thank each other for the time, effort, and heart.

After all, you’re all on the same side: Dad’s team.

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 5 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at