11 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Family Meeting
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness is a complicated task, and for families requires consensus and vigilance. Family meetings are important to ensure information is shared, formulate care plans, and arrange task divisions with family members. A family meeting is a specific time set aside to promote communication, decision-making, and problem-solving, and to encourage strong family relationships.
Here are 11 tips and strategies to help plan a productive family meeting.
1) Set Clear Goals
Set realistic and attainable goals for each meeting. Remember, the key objectives to a family meeting are to build consensus among family members and to align with one another for the betterment of a loved one’s care.
2) Give it structure
Planning, coordination and follow-up are key to family meeting success. Set start times and end times, create an agenda, try to limit topics to one or two, and follow up with action items to keep responsibilities clear.
3) Get everyone involved
Include the individual with Alzheimer’s disease, if possible. Determine who is, or will be, part of the caregiving team (family, friend, professional), and make sure everyone is included in the meeting. If family members are in different geographical areas, consider having the meeting virtually via phone, Zoom, Facetime or Skype. Create a family calendar, including medical appointments and activities, and each individual’s responsibilities and commitments. Encourage all family members to contribute ideas to the agenda beforehand.
4) Meet regularly
Try to hold meetings regularly, and, as needed, when there is change in your loved one’s condition or care plan. After each meeting, send a summary of decisions and agreements to all participants. Be sure to clearly define the responsibilities for each family member.
5) Consider an outside facilitator
Consider having someone outside the family, such as a social worker, clergy member or other professional to help guide the conversation and ensure everyone is heard.
6) Be prepared
Bring information, such as doctor’s notes and legal documents, to the meeting.
7) Assign roles
For example, choose one person as the speaker and one as record keeper.
8) Focus on the facts
Family meetings can be emotional, but try to keep opinions out of the mix. Stick to the facts of your loved one’s care, such as a change in their physical abilities. Use personal examples to illustrate points (e.g., “I have been present when mom has been up all night.”)
9) Take a break if needed
If a family member is feeling angered or stressed, take a break to process these emotions. Do your best to create a culture of respect and acceptance. Make sure everyone is valued and allowed to feel the multitude of emotions that come with having a family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
10) Acknowledge each member’s strengths
Everyone brings something to the table — acknowledge each member’s strengths and try not to be judgmental of their limitations.
11) Collaboration and compromise are key
Be mindful that there is no “right” way of being a care partner—some families do things one way; others do it another way. Not all issues regarding caregiving and decision-making will be “solved” to your expectations; sometimes it is important to accept a solution that is “in the ballpark.”
Have questions or need more information? Contact AFA’s Helpline at 866-232-8484 or click the chat icon in the lower right hand corner of this page.