Tips for Conducting a Family Meeting
Planning for Your Loved One’s Future
Have you decided it’s time for a serious family discussion about your loved one’s needs? Perhaps you’ve seen some early warning signs that cause concern, such as physical limitations or changes in behavior. You’re not alone; it’s estimated that more than half of all seniors will need some type of long-term care services in their lifetimes.
Reasons to Hold a Family Meeting
Talking about next steps is a difficult conversation, but the sooner family members and caregivers can discuss options, the better care your loved one will receive, which needs to remain the focus of any meeting.
Some family members are often unaware of changes taking place. A meeting can bring concerns to light, and bringing everyone together to discuss roles and options can alleviate the pressures placed on certain individuals. Talking about issues, sharing information and discussing ideas will almost always be beneficial when conducted appropriately.
Determine Who Should Attend a Family Meeting
The first person you need to include is your loved one. Even if issues such as dementia, physical limitations or reluctance exist, his or her choices and dignity need to be upheld and respected. Ultimately, it’s your decision and that of your loved one, but don’t purposely exclude them.
Others to invite include your loved one’s close family members or friends, personal caregivers, neighbors or a trusted religious advisor. Be inclusive but try to limit the group to no more than 10 people.
But You Don’t Know My Family!
There are often family divides — both geographic and relational — that make a meeting challenging. Planning a meeting around a holiday gathering or special family event may be a good option and, if necessary, video chat apps can help to overcome travel limitations.
Family conflicts are often the most difficult challenge to overcome. When requesting the meeting, it may be appropriate to acknowledge that tensions exist, but stress putting aside personal agendas to focus on your loved one’s needs. There is no perfect resolution, and compromise will be necessary. Focus on the future, not past hurts.
Create an Agenda and Assign Roles
A family meeting should not be a free-for-all. Assign a facilitator, note taker and time keeper, and arrange a comfortable meeting place with snacks and beverages.
Share an agenda with attendees in advance and allow for feedback. There will be multiple opinions about what’s most important, so start by asking your loved one about his or her main concerns. Consider discussing the pros and cons of staying home rather than only talking about leaving. Include ground rules in your agenda: show respect, agree that it’s ok to disagree and avoid verbal attacks or criticism.
Family Meeting Follow Up
After the meeting, send out notes to those involved and those who couldn’t make it. Remind everyone about tasks that may have been assigned. Set a time for future meetings to address any changes that may warrant intervention.
As part of the initial meeting, you should have discussed a back-up plan in the event your loved one suddenly is no longer able to stay at home. It’s important to research and visit potential retirement communities in advance and to get put on a waiting list so you’re not forced to make a rash and uninformed decision, and remind your loved one that being on a waiting list doesn’t require moving in when your name comes up.
Ask for Help
Rallying around a loved one for a common purpose can actually ease tensions among family members and strengthen relationships. A helpful tip may be to include an objective third party who has expertise in elder care, either to help plan in advance or as part of your meeting. Some charge and others, like CarePatrol, are a free service. One of their Certified Senior Advisors can help you explore solutions and provide options for the future, whether it’s in-home care or assisted living.