Family Meetings to develop a dementia care plan
Did the doctor say I have dementia?
At first, your reaction might be “This cannot be”. For many, denial may set in. Then there is the concern and over worry about the future, as you move through the stages of grief to Acceptance. There are so many concerns a family faces when it comes to dementia and elder care planning.
The first step is to begin having regular family meetings. These meetings should address the ongoing concerns and issues that occur while caring for a family member with dementia. These meetings also allow families to become better-educated make more informed choices on resources and care.
Prioritizing family meetings are critical for everyone. It is important to have formal eldercare meetings. Done in a business like fashion, families may support one another other with boundaries and limits set. This keeps the family dynamics to a limit. This also allows all family members to become educated on all the resources available. Then time is given to discuss the differences and everyone has the ability to offer solutions.
Let me explain.
There is always a primary caregiver and there are various factors that affect that individual’s role. The primary candidate is often determined by gender, culture, birth order, or by marriage. Historically, the other family members and friends of dementia care givers take the role and the stress that the primary care giver endures for granted. Regularly scheduled, ongoing family meetings give the primary caregiver the ability to relay to the family the importance of everyone participating in the care.
Elder care meetings can improve the communications between family members; help keep the family informed on the ongoing and future concerns of future health care needs. It is important to approach your family meeting in a planned and business like manner. This approach can prevent having to manage arising situations by family members feeling in crisis and very emotional.
Your first eldercare meeting should have identified goals and rules. These will be for everyone involved, family and friends. This may be an uncomfortable first step, but setting rules is very important.
The topics of conversation can become unpleasant and heated. Emotions will flair up and everyone will be frustrated. Setting goals and rules in the beginning will not stop these moments from occurring, but can y decrease the amount of times they may occur. One of the goals of the first family meeting is to develop a “team” approach to the ongoing care giving process.
If, at this time, there are any unpleasant family interactions, this is the time to be firm and strong. Request that everyone put their differences aside for the goal of providing care to your parent or spouse. The first meeting agenda may address three or four issues or concerns. This is the time to ask every one involved to ask what they consider important to them. This is also the time to ask everyone what tasks and responsibilities they will take on for the duration.
I suggest that you ask someone to be the secretary to take notes and send them via snail mail or email to everyone. Make sure that everyone has a task or job and a time frame that that task must be completed. Before you end your first meeting makes sure everyone brings their calendar so that you can schedule the next meeting.
There are going to be times when having a family meeting are difficult or even impossible. In these situations, it is important that you consider having an objective third party to moderate you family meeting.
A caregiver coach, a gerontologist, or geriatric care managers are individuals that are skilled to facilitate and work with a family at every level. In your case, you would want someone that is also experienced in all types of dementias.
Tips to a successful family meeting:
- A list of topics for provided for discussion ahead of time.
- Request that all family members have potential solutions to the topics on the agenda, if possible.
- Set a time limit for family meeting
- Rule #1 No one is permitted to speak longer than 5 minutes on a topic. Have a timer available. This will keep any one family member from taking control of the meeting.
- Initially, each meeting should begin by asking each family member to take responsibility to research and provide education to the family on the disease condition, community resources, or legal documents that need to be addressed. This may be a fact sharing sheet on a diagnosis or information on a power of attorney.
- Consider using Skype, or a speaker phone to include even those family members that live a distance. With today’s technology there is no reason for anyone to be left out.
- Remind everyone to bring their calendars. You want to schedule the next meeting before ending each meeting.
The family meetings will not always go smoothly nor will they always solve every problem. Sometimes the family meeting will be just a reminder to all that there are not clear cut solutions to every problem and the goal of the team is to do what is in the best interest of the family member with dementia and the primary caregiver.
The benefits of family meetings are a decrease in the unhealthy communications and dynamics a family can face under ongoing stress. Having ongoing family meetings can also give everyone an opportunity to be involved in the life of the senior family member’s life. It is at times such as these, when entire families pull together that stronger family bonds and relationships develop to new and satisfying levels.