By Joy Loverde
Do siblings assume that because you are single you are the “chosen” one to care for your aging parents? Are your sisters and brothers better off financially yet never contribute to your parents’ eldercare expenses?
Eldercare is complex and time-consuming, and family meetings can be an efficient way to deal with caregiving issues. Follow these suggestions from The Complete Eldercare Planner by Joy Loverde.
Why bother with a family meeting?
There are many benefits to family meetings. Perhaps you’re worried about a parent’s situation and looking to brainstorm caregiving ideas with other members of the family. Or perhaps you feel overwhelmed and a parent-care meeting will create an opportunity to invite others to share the care.
Whatever the case may be family meetings can be helpful. BUT BEWARE! All sorts of family issues come to the surface -- old and new ones. Undoubtedly, family squabbles are common.
Who should attend the family meeting?
Limit the meeting to people who are directly affected by the eldercare situation. If your spouse/partner expresses a desire to be included then by all means extend an invitation to him or her.
If you suspect that emotions may get the best of everyone, consider inviting a neutral moderator such as a professional mediator or a social worker who specializes in older-adult issues. Here’s an informative article written by Janet E. Mitchell… http://www.mediate.com/articles/mitchellj.cfm
Should parents be invited?
The first meeting usually takes place without parents present. The goal is to create a plan of action to work together as a team, or if nothing else, call a temporary truce to a family feud.
Before the Meeting
Decide together when and where to hold meetings. Whether you choose an office, restaurant or someone's home, pick a setting that presents few distractions. Families often find that meeting after sharing a meal together is conducive to a congenial atmosphere. It may also be easier to hold the meeting over the phone or via a Skype-like system.
Agree to a specific timetable. What time will the meeting begin and end? Often a series of shorter meetings are more productive than one long meeting.
Decide on a goal for each meeting – a narrow focus works best. Prioritizing issues upfront ensures that critical matters are given full attention.
Acquire current factual information. For example, if you plan to discuss long-term care, have on hand financial, insurance, and legal data, obtain medical and psychiatric prognosis information and know the costs of eldercare-related services.
Agree on a facilitator to lead the meeting, and designate someone to take notes – or record the meeting and pay someone to transcribe the notes.
Establish ground rules. Everyone deserves respect. Discuss the following:
- Policy regarding interruptions when someone else is speaking. Allow everyone at least five minutes to state concerns and points of view – use a timer if need be. No interrupting.
- There should be a no-tolerance policy regarding insults, derogatory remarks, and the raising of voices.
- Stick to the agreed-upon time table.
Open the meeting by re-stating the agreed-upon agenda. As people consent to specific actions, record what they have agreed to do. Keep in mind that agreements can be made on a time-limited basis, and future discussions can be used to revise them. Reach consensus before moving on to the next topic.
A productive meeting ends with a "recap" of the issues and any decisions made. Set a date for the next meeting if needed.
Establish a plan to stay in touch and keep everyone updated.
If you are struggling with siblings and looking for resolution, I sincerely hope that you give a family meeting a try.
Until next time.