Why Family Meetings Are Time Well Spent
When your calendar is typically filled to the brim, it’s hard to think about squeezing in yet another meeting. But there’s one meeting you shouldn’t miss: the family meeting about your senior loved one.
Family meetings are an important way to improve care for your loved one. Whether in person, conference call or video chat, these meetings help maintain communications among family members so everyone is on the same page about care. They can also avoid potential family rifts.
Sometimes holiday gatherings provide a wake-up call about how mom or dad are truly faring at home, especially when family is spread out across the country. In person, family members may notice more forgetfulness. They may also see more frailty and weakness, medication mix-ups, weight loss, poor hygiene and/or personal care.
One family member may have already recognized issues and has been trying to help while the others were unaware. Next, fingers are pointed. Emotions flare. Resentments build. And care for the senior loved one suffers.
Yet, family members who aren’t directly involved in caregiving may not realize how much time, energy is needed, or the physical and emotional toll caregiving can take on the caregiver.
When an older loved one shows signs of needing more help, it affects the whole family and requires a group effort. That’s where weekly family meetings come in.
The How-Tos of Family Meetings
Decide who needs to be part of the meeting
Family means different things to different people. Meetings should at least include the adult children and anyone who is part of the caregiving team, including extended family, close friends or paid caregivers.
At times, you may tailor the meeting group based on the topic. For example, a meeting to discuss family finances may just include immediate family. If family dynamics are challenging, consider inviting an outside facilitator, such as a minister or social worker.
Choose the best location
If most people will be there in person, a family member’s home may be most comfortable and private. However, if a neutral location is better, find a coffee shop or public meeting room (check libraries).
Set ground rules for meetings
Establish the policy that everyone will be heard without judgement or interruption. Family members should be free to say what they truly think and share emotions or concerns. You may discover that a brother has a fear of sick people and hospitals, while a sister is feeling overwhelmed by caregiving. Another may share job or marital issues that have prevented him from being fully present.
Always use respectful language with each other and stay calm. Remember the goal of the meeting is to work together to provide the best care and quality of life for your loved one.
Clarify roles and responsibilities
Misunderstandings and lack of communication could mean something important is missed. Consider assigning a note taker for meetings. Coordinate tasks such as meals, housework and doctor’s appointments. Determine who is doing what and when.
Make sure everyone is clear on their specific responsibilities and that the bulk of things aren’t consistently landing on one person.
Discuss any changes in health or behavior
One family member may see their older parent most often and notice physical changes or lack of appetite. Another out-of-town family member may talk on the phone more frequently and notice the older parent’s forgetfulness or rambling. Be sure to discuss these in the meeting so nothing is missed.
Other topics to discuss include the latest report from the physician, daily caregiving needs, financial concerns, problems encountered or additional needs to be filled.
Share all important information
When important information such as medications and finances is shared, then everyone is in the know if the family member responsible for those areas becomes unavailable. Create a plan so everyone knows how to step in as necessary. Sharing eliminates the risk of losing necessary knowledge.
Support each other
Everyone deals with stress and caregiving differently. Some easily express they need a break, while others aren’t comfortable asking for help. Talking each week allows family members to share their feelings, recognize burnout more easily, and provide each other support. It also brings a family closer when they often need it most.
Recognize When More Help is the Answer
Families are a strong source of support and caregiving, yet it can be difficult to shoulder all the responsibilities of caring for an older loved one. Sometimes assisted living is the best answer for everyone involved.
When you seek peace of mind combined with an exceptional standard of living for your loved one, turn to McKnight Place. We offer services for seniors who want to remain independent while receiving some extra help and care in areas such as meals, housekeeping and laundry, medication management, doctor visits, transportation, personal care, safety and physical and social activities.
The McKnight Place nursing staff is available 24 hours a day and a certified geriatric medical director is always on call. Thanks to the unparalleled services and beautiful, spacious suites and grounds, families can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying special moments together.
McKnight Place offers a lively, beautiful community where families are engaged and where residents live the life they choose in safety and comfort.