Broaching delicate subjects such as health and the need for extended care can be a daunting prospect for the majority of families. However, sometimes these types of discussions are necessary and may even be urgent. Every family has its own dynamic, so considering the best way to approach a topic such as this can be a worthwhile endeavour.
Having a family meeting is one effective way to handle such a difficult discussion. This allows family members to prepare points they feel are important to the situation, and tackle any issues that may arise during a dialogue of this nature. It can also provide a sound structure to ensure all relevant voices are heard and acknowledged. Here are some helpful suggestions for planning your family meeting.
Consider the outcome you are looking to achieve, and how it effects everyone involved. Try to allow each family member to be heard, so no one feels like they are being overlooked. It may take several discussions to address all the issues, so it is important to set realistic and practical goals.
For example, the first meeting might be to simply list all viable care options and determine the positives and negatives for each of those options. Just be sure to make your objectives clear so your family can continue to make forward progress in realizing the goals of the meeting.
It can be tricky determining who should be invited to participate in these discussions. Try to think of all the people directly involved in the situation that could provide useful insight. It is important to involve people close to the one being cared for, but equally important to not have too many participants or nothing will get accomplished.
Next, there is the significant decision of whether or not to include the person being cared for in the meeting. Each family will be different when it comes to this choice, so try to consider the best option for your particular situation. You may even want to hold an initial meeting without the loved one in need of care present, and then bring them in for the next meeting after an introductory assessment. Any professional caregivers close to your loved one can also be included, as they could possibly provide a more informed viewpoint.
It is important to conduct your meeting in a comfortable environment. If you are including your loved one in the meeting, that may dictate the location of your meeting. Depending on the situation, it may need to be held in a hospital or the loved one’s current care facility. In any case, try to choose a place where people will feel comfortable expressing their concerns.
It is very important to make the agenda known to all participants before the meeting, so everyone can discuss the issues objectively and appropriately. You may want to plan ahead using any of these possible steps:
- Create the agenda as early as you can
- Lay out your meetings objectives
- Prioritize your items
- Provide enough time for each item
- Focus on key points
- Advise people on how they can prepare
Someone will need to be the meeting facilitator. If you do not feel comfortable in this role, try to find another participant that is willing but also would make an effective mediator. If you anticipate problems or heated discussions ensuing you may want to bring in an unbiased third party to handle it. It is also a good idea to assign someone to take minutes for the meeting so there is a record of what was discussed. This way you can go over the notes at the end of the meeting, and refer back to them at a later date if necessary.
The role of the mediator or facilitator is to make sure all participants are heard. They should ensure that no one person is monopolizing talk time. It is imperative that all participants listen to what everyone has to say without interruption or judgement. Each participant should be allowed to feel comfortable while expressing their opinions, feelings, and recommendations.
Once the meeting is finished you can go through the recorded notes to review what was discussed and any decisions that were made. This will help to make sure everyone is on the same page, and to clear up any discrepancies. This is also a good opportunity to establish the next steps, such as determining if another meeting is required. At this time, it is important to make sure each participant is aware of their role going forward and any tasks they are required to carry out. Encourage open, ongoing communication for all participants following the meeting!