Alzheimers

Alzheimer's
Foundation of America

Getting the Most Out of a Family Meeting

A family meeting is a specific time set aside to promote communication, decision-making, and problem-solving, and to encourage strong family relationships. When caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness, family meetings are important in ensuring information is shared, to put care plans in place, and to help divide tasks among family members.

Here are some tips and strategies to help plan a productive family meeting.

Set 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.

Planning and Follow-up:

Planning, coordination and follow-up are key to family meeting success. Here are some tips to help things flow smoothly:

  • Include the individual with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Determine all who are, 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 via Skype, phone or video conference
  • Set start and end times for the meeting and create an agenda ahead of time; encourage all family members to contribute ideas to the agenda
  • To help keep meetings on track, limit topics to one or two
  • 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
  • Create a family calendar, including medical appointments and activities, and each individual’s responsibilities and commitments
  • Consider using an outside facilitator, such as a social worker, clergy member or other professional to help guide the conversation and ensure everyone is heard

Other Strategies for Success:

  • Be prepared—bring information, such as doctor’s notes and legal documents, to the meeting
  • Assign roles—for example, choose one person as the speaker and one as record keeper
  • Keep opinions out of the mix; stick to the facts of your loved one’s care, such as a change in his or her physical abilities
  • Use personal examples to illustrate points (e.g., “I have been present when mom has been up all night”)
  • If a family member is feeling angered or stressed, take a break to process these emotions
  • Create a culture of respect and acceptance
  • Acknowledge each member’s strengths and try not to be judgmental of their limitations
  • Collaboration and compromise are key: be mindful that there is no “right” way of being a care partner—we do things our way; others do it their 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”