Family meetings are sometimes the best way to resolve issues affecting both your resident and the person being cared for, especially if he or she is an older relative. To be effective, however, they need to be handled carefully. You and your retirement community can assist families of residents by providing advice and counsel to them.
Planning is a necessity.
Meetings without a plan are likely to end up proving unsatisfactory to everyone concerned. Before setting up the meeting, encourage the meeting sponsor to answer these questions:
1. Why are they meeting? What are the goals? What does the family want to accomplish?
2. Who can contribute to meeting the goals? Who is critical to attending the meeting?
3. Who will lead the meeting? Should a nonfamily member, such as minister be the one to lead the meeting?
Preparing for the Meeting
Of course, the best meetings are those where family attendees are prepared. Here are a series of actions you can suggest:
1. Set goals and get agreement in advance. If some goals are disagreed with, consider them as items for discussion.
2. Make sure the time, date and location selected for the meeting will work for those who are critical to achieve the goals. Your retirement community may be the best location.
3. Set an agenda and priorities, especially for those that must be dealt with during the meeting.
4. Agree to a time limit and the major items on the agenda.
5. Provide family attendees with documents in advance so they might come prepared.
Managing the Meeting
Family meetings can be stressful with strong emotional currents running underneath or above the surface. Here are ways to approach it:
1. Try to make sure the older resident is present for some or all of the meeting. It is important to honor his or her preferences.
2. Make sure everyone gets an equal chance to be heard.
3. Don’t digress to unrelated issues.
4. Family members should avoid blame and counter-productive topics.
5. If tasks need to be done, let people volunteer for what they would prefer to do.
6. Record who volunteers for what and then pass along a list for each to sign up what they have agreed to do.
Agreement on Important Family Matters
Sometimes tasks aren’t the issue. It may be where an elder relative should live, or how to deal with a medical problem or something else. Here are steps to family agreement.
1. Specify the problems. Identify exactly what needs to be taken care of so all related issues are covered.
2. Exchange ideas. Everyone should be invited to suggest solutions. Talk them through and negotiate an agreement that is acceptable.
3. Try out the solutions. Give the solutions time to solve the problem, if possible.
Family meetings can be productive. When they are productive, everyone including the older person being cared for, feels the results are effective.