“Bringing the family and support network together to discuss a loved one’s changing situation and available options, is a crucial step in elder care planning and making appropriate choices.”
Businesses approach tough issues by scheduling a meeting of their best resources, academic departments at both Ivy League and community colleges hold monthly meetings and some doctor’s offices hold “huddles” every morning. If you are dealing with caring for an aging parent or planning for your spouse’s care, a family meeting can be an invaluable asset.
According to an article in aPlaceforMom.com titled “Guide to Elder Care Planning & Family Meetings,” families dealing with the heavy burdens of caregiving often overlook the importance of a family meeting. Paid caregivers should be invited and paid for their time. It’s easy to think some people won’t want to attend. However, unless you ask, you don’t know for sure what they’ll say.
Sharing information and airing different ideas can be productive. One family member might feel like they are carrying the whole load, while others feel like they want to do more but aren’t sure what. It’s typical for siblings or others to feel like they are doing more than their share: talk it out so everyone is taking some part of the responsibility.
These roles are often influenced by culture or gender. Caring for a frail older person is not easy. However, the same strong person who could easily mow mom’s lawn, will be uncomfortable helping with bathing and toileting.
At least three and at most 10 people should be invited to the meeting. We have some cultural taboos, such as discussing death and dying in front of a person. However, respecting their desire to be part of that conversation is very important. If they don’t want to be involved, respect that as well.
Direct caregivers should be included. The woman who comes to clean weekly may be aware of certain behavioral changes that an every-other-week visitor would not. Family members might also want to include a spiritual advisor, if the person is a member of a faith-based community.
Every family is unique, and some may benefit from the services of a social worker or gerontologist.
Set an agenda and stick with it. Topics will depend on the situation, such as moving to a different residential setting, the use of alert systems and health care transportation.
An elder law attorney will be able to refer you to a social worker who could guide the meeting, if your family dynamics are such that communications get tangled up on past grievances. This is not unusual. The point is not to let family dynamics get in the way of good planning and good decision making.
Reference: aPlaceforMom.com (January 2018) “Guide to Elder Care Planning & Family Meetings”