Tips for planning and managing a caregiver family meeting

A little planning goes a long way in having productive caregiver family meetings.

Being a caregiver of an aging parent is a reality for many. Having a plan in place to communicate effectively with your siblings through organizing a caregiver family meeting, can help make the experience less stressful and more rewarding.

Helpful steps to planning a caregiver family meeting:

Set your agenda

Make a list of the most important issues that need to be handled. Everyone will have their own ideas of what needs to be covered, and acknowledging that up front on the written agenda can be a good start validating thoughts and feelings. Be sure to include the thoughts and feelings of the most important person – the loved one being cared for.

Decide who will be the facilitator of the meeting

The facilitator could be a neutral person or the sibling who is the natural leader of the family. Assign someone to take notes and be the timekeeper. The timekeeper is responsible to start and end the meeting on time. They can help assure everyone gets their time to talk, without being interrupted. Decide on a per-person time limit ahead of time. Then allow for open discussion after.

Set a date, time and place that works for everyone

If you have out-of-town siblings who cannot travel to the meeting, you can still include them using technology like video conferencing, or call them and put your cell phone on speaker. Meeting on neutral territory may help. Having lunch together at a restaurant with a quiet atmosphere, comfortable seating and good food can help make people feel more at ease.

During the meeting, keep the process flowing

Hold people to their time limit of speaking without interruption. Remind everyone that even though there may be past unresolved issues between each of you, this meeting is about the future and the care of your loved one. At the end of the meeting, be sure to set a date and time for the next meeting. Depending on the urgency of your loved one’s needs it could be anywhere from a week to a month. Remember, it is okay if you cannot address all problems in one meeting. Sometimes just being able to share thoughts or feelings with each other, helps ease frustration and move people to problem solving mode.

Distribute notes to everyone who attended and to those who could not attend

Be open to discussion and feedback from them. You can always add their comments to the notes and bring them up at the next meeting. This helps everyone to feel part of the solution. Check back in after the meeting to assure things are getting done. This also allows for problem solving and plan revision if things are not getting done.

Whether you are the primary care provider or a long distance caregiver, family caregiver meetings give everyone a chance to be aware of your loved ones wants and needs. It also helps to assure everyone is given the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. In addition, it opens up the possibility of shared responsibilities, which can greatly reduce your stress.

If you would like some additional information to help you as a caregiver, please visit Michigan State University Extension’s website. There, you will find classes to help you learn to manage stress. 

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