-By Dana O’Donnell, R.N.
Whether you are caring for someone in your home, or you are one of many long-distance caregivers, a family meeting can be very helpful when planning the care, support and safety of a loved one. It’s an opportunity for the members of a family to gather at a specified time to discuss their observations of changes they recently witnessed and review the information they have received about the ill or compromised family member. A Geriatric Case Manager, (GCM) or Licensed Nurse Practitioner (LNP) may be helpful to ensure that all involved understand the medical issues and begin to address a cooperative approach to any challenges. If your family members are not accustomed to talking openly or problem-solving together, you may want to consider using an unbiased source.
Here are some helpful hints for a family meeting, to assist in the planning for the care of your parent or ill family member:
- Decide Who Should be Involved – Certainly all family members who will participate in the direct care or who will be significantly contributing in a support role should be “at the table.” If physical presence is not possible, use conference calls or recordings.
- Consider Including the Person Who Needs Care – If the person is very ill, tell them why you are meeting and reassure them that you will share what was discussed with them.
- Informally Appoint One Person as “Leader” – This can be a family member or a professional to clarify medical issues and facilitate the meeting. If you are that person, it will help to plan an agenda for your meeting, outlining the key issues that need to be discussed.
- Review Recent Physician Report – If one or several members are not familiar with all of the medical issues, it is important to review the most recent physician report. Be sure to leave ample time for questions and discussion about how each person is feeling; this is a very emotional time.
- List All Care Giving Needs — This includes meals, doctor appointments and personal care. Ask someone to take notes.
- Address Safety Issues and Independence – Discuss safety concerns and address whether the patient can continue to live alone. If the answer is no, next steps will include a discussion of options for care.
- Talk Openly About Financial Concerns – How much will the care cost? Review resources and address whether family members can contribute if necessary.
- Who Will Make Decisions? Is there a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a will and a living will?
- Plan For Another Meeting – End the meeting knowing that you have only raised some of the issues and may have more questions than you thought. Have a plan that will address these questions and schedule another meeting to bring back information from assigned tasks.
When meeting for the first time, the family will have a better idea of the roles and responsibilities of all involved. They will also begin to understand how to prioritize what needs to happen next. Remember, it’s a beginning.
To learn more about the resources available in your community contact Dana O’Donnell R.N., Director of Liberty at Home, at 215-643-6496.
Liberty at Home, a home care agency, supports older adults who wish to remain in their home by working with referring physicians, nurses and therapists to provide care in your own home.