Elder Care and the Benefits of Family Meetings

“When It’s Time to Huddle,” is a May 11, 2013 Wall Street Journal article by Kelly Greene. It highlights what social workers and other helping professionals have long known – family meetings work! They are particularly beneficial when trying to coordinate care for elders, including working through complicated financial issues and legal planning. Consultations with an Elder Care Attorney specializing in Life Care Planning often begin with a family meeting.

To be most effective, the meetings should:

  • Occur before there is a crisis.
  • Be inclusive and convenient for all.
  • Present an opportunity for “all interested parties” to come together to express concerns, ask questions, gather information and develop a plan of action.
  • Be a forum where everyone hears the same information in real time and that allows for consensus decision-making.
  • Include an identified facilitator (either an objective party such as a healthcare provider, care manager or attorney, or the member of the family most trusted by the elder), an agenda, rules of engagement (e.g., no yelling, allow each participant to speak, the meeting will last one hour, etc.) and clear goals (reason for meeting).
  • Decrease the chance for miscommunication and allow for focused dialog.
  • Provide a venue for family members to help each other resolve issues, share responsibilities and divide up tasks.
  • Help to keep everyone informed and present options with time allowed to think through choices.

The Family Caregiver Alliance suggests the following issues be discussed:

  • The latest doctor’s report.
  • Concerns about diagnoses and who will make decisions about medical treatment.
  • Caregiving needs.
  • Financial concerns including who will make decisions about finances.
  • What support role each family member should play.
  • What support the primary caregiver might need.

The group also suggests documenting a summary of the session and scheduling the next meeting right away!



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