Saturday, March 29, 2008

Care for Caregivers Part III

Hold a Family Meeting

A family meeting allows all those who might want a say in a loved one's care, including the loved one herself, to gather for a frank discussion of the person's circumstances and needs.

Attendees have equal opportunity to express their opinions about what needs to be done, by when, and by whom. If the meeting achieves its purpose, everyone will pull together to support the primary caregiver and ease the physical and emotional demands of giving care.

There is no "best" time to arrange the first meeting. Some families choose to convene before a loved one requires considerable support, so they can plan ahead. But for many others, a medical crisis forces the issue. Even then, experts say, getting together can help organize caregiving efforts and maintain family harmony.

Invite everyone who is affected by a loved one's situation, family members as well as close friends (with your loved one's approval, when possible). If some people can't attend in person, make arrangements for them to call in on a speakerphone, so they can hear everything that's being discussed. Another option is to go online. Today, many families conduct meetings in private chat rooms on the Internet.

Don't forget your loved one, whose attendance at the meeting is especially important. If the person is hospitalized but able to take part, you may want to make arrangements to gather at the hospital (though in that case, you might need to limit the invitees to just immediate family).

In the event that your loved one can't participate because of cognitive or functional impairment, hold the meeting anyway, then report back to them afterward. Provide options that encourage her to make decisions about her own care, to the extent that she is able.

If anyone in your family chooses not to take part in discussions, don't try to force the issue. Just keep the person in the loop as best you can, without asking anything of her. For the first meeting, keep your expectations realistic.If you're not comfortable running a family meeting on your own, or if family members can't agree on certain aspects of a loved one's care, consider asking a third-party professional to step in on your behalf. Potential facilitators include the family cleric, a psychologist, a social worker, or a geriatric care manager.

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