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  • Jon Shaw

Family Meetings To Discuss Senior Living Can Be Daunting

In most businesses, tough issues are addressed by gathering the most knowledgeable and concerned people. Successful academic departments at every prestigious university hold monthly meetings. Well-planned and appropriately attended meetings can help governments resolve impossible dilemmas.

Family meeting can be very complex.

Organizing a family meeting for senior care despite barriers:

In order to hold a family meeting about senior care, many barriers exist, both real and imaginary. Geographical distance is a big barrier. Families may be dispersed across the country. Life is already busy and over-scheduled enough without adding another commitment. Families might feel it is too expensive to pay caregivers for meeting time, and caregivers might not want to donate their time to ponder the issues.

Zoom and other video conferencing technologies are now available, making it easier for everyone to participate. It's still advantageous to gather attendees in person, but add some devices, and include the major participants.

You might think, "My brother would never agree to participate in a meeting," but have you asked him? Families are often heavy burdened by caregiving responsibilities, so you might be surprised what people will agree to if it is an improvement.

Planning for elder care: why hold a meeting?

The sharing of information and the airing of thoughts will be productive whether or not specific problems are being addressed. Sometimes family members may feel they aren't doing enough, when in fact they may be doing too much. A sibling or caregiver may also feel that they do more than they should individually, while someone else doesn't.

It is common for cultures, genders, and birth orders to influence these roles. For instance, an adult son might be quite willing to mow his mother's lawn, but avoid bathing and tucking her in: "That's a woman's job!"It is common for cultures, genders, and birth orders to influence these roles. For instance, an adult son might be quite willing to mow his mother's lawn, but avoid bathing and tucking her in: "That's a woman's job!"

Most people can handle yard work, but it's difficult for nearly anyone to take care of a disabled person. Helping a woman or a man bathe is also more difficult for men than for women.

As long as the meeting is well planned, well attended, and conducted appropriately, holding a meeting for everyone involved almost always improves the situation.

When I am planning elder care, who should I invite to the meeting?

The meeting should be held in a hospital room if one of your elderly loved ones needs care. Invite at least three or four people who will definitely attend, with a maximum of about ten attendees.

There are some special challenges for holding a meeting with an elderly family member, despite these obstacles:

  • Loss of hearing

  • Dementia or Alzheimer's symptoms

  • Defiant attitude toward problems or reluctance to discuss them

Families may avoid including their loved ones because they find it difficult to discuss the situation with them due to their disability. In addition, American culture tends to leave out older people, just like you might exclude a child from financial discussions. Some families may not be able to include their parent because of cultural or traditional taboos, such as discussing death in front of dying people.

In every decision-making process, regardless of age or cognitive state, frail elders' choices, dignity, and autonomy are respected, and they are included in the process, whether in person or through Zoom.

It's important to determine what works for your family dynamics. But don't assume that because a meeting is about someone, they shouldn't attend.

It might also be a good idea to invite:

  • Caregiver professionals; Despite being overlooked or ignored, caregivers are often more knowledgeable about relevant issues, such as incontinence, than the family.

  • Spiritual advisors such as rabbis, priests, or chaplains can be useful for families with different religious beliefs.

  • Social workers or case managers may benefit some families, but their services aren't mandatory.

Identifying current and potential resources for your family should be your top priority.

Talking about senior care planning during a meeting

Regardless of what you decide, be as inclusive as possible. You'll discover that people have wildly differing views of what's important. Just recognizing this will be useful.

Your loved one needing care must be given a leading role. It would be easy to assume that your mom will reply in a certain way when you ask her what her biggest problem is, but she is more likely to declare, "You're all trying to get me to move - you’re my biggest problem!"

We might discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Mom moving instead. This might lead to a discussion of "why the family thinks you should move." Be frank: "We're afraid you'll fall and won't be able to get up on your own."

It is imperative that you review the elder care planning agenda in advance with all involved parties. For this, you can use email, phone, or mail. It is important that you set a time for the next meeting. It could be in a week or a year, but at least it is important that you schedule a time for it to occur.

Before the meeting

The facilitator role should be assigned to a neutral person once your agenda is completed. It is possible to designate a notetaker, followed by a timekeeper, who both limits the duration and ensures that everyone gets equal air time — that is, nobody gets to speak more frequently or for longer than everyone else at the meeting.

Make sure everyone can make eye contact by setting up a comfortable physical environment with food and beverages.

Conflict can be resolved through communication

Family history, especially past family conflicts, is one of the biggest obstacles to a successful family meeting. When it comes to family meetings, most families are not harmonious, and even those that are may have been involved in past fights.

Communication considerations include:

The dynamics of a family are complex. Mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, brothers and sisters: they are all traditionally at odds with one another. You can make it even messier by adding in-laws, aunts, and grandparents. Be aware that these are normal family dynamics. But we're here to discuss the future, not the past.

We'll be hearing different viewpoints at the meeting. Compromise, compromise, compromise - there will never be a perfect solution. The only way to achieve a solution is to work together.

The importance of quality of life may outweigh the importance of quantity in elder care planning. Recognize that safety may not always outweigh all other factors. Many older people prefer not to have to use stairs in their homes; others, however, consider climbing stairs to be a healthy exercise, so they feel the risk of falling is worth it, especially in their beloved and familiar surroundings.

How to develop a care plan for an elderly loved one

Ensure the meeting notes are distributed to all concerned, even if they were unable to attend. Follow up on any decisions made.

Follow up on any decisions made.

When the situation changes, be flexible. The new support systems set up after the meeting may have helped your loved one at home, but even without saying so, most families recognize that things are likely to change — and probably not in a good way.

Your parent may be interested in moving to one of three retirement communities if their situation changes. It is a good idea to visit each community virtually or in person, and consider adding their name to the waiting list. It doesn't mean they have to move, just plan B in case things change.

Try to remember that the family meeting may not solve every problem. Just clearing the air and discussing dilemmas can be a positive step.

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