ARTICLES / General /
Soaring Through a Family Meeting /
By Jean Wise
O = Organize
Categorizing is the next step. Who is doing
what? What needs to be explored?What deadlines need to be established?
Other good organizational questions to discuss
are: What are our options? What do we need to
know? What if (fill in the blank) happens? What can each of us contribute?
Who else needs to be involved?
How will daily schedules, holiday and
emergencies be handled? Talking in advance about difficult
situations will lessen future problems and
Emotions may be fragile as sensitive issues
are discussed. Remember organizing provides structure,
not ownership. All decisions should be flexible and
considerate of all involved.
Designate a note taker to record how tasks are
divided. If one person is taking on too many
assignments, this will be clear to see in a
written summary. Or is that okay with that person? Sometimes it is helpful to have one
person in charge as the coordinator, but
openness is necessary about this issue. What if that person makes a decision not
all agree with? Talking ahead of time will reduce
In Bess’ case, the three siblings who lived
closer each offers to take a day a week to give
their dad a break. The daughter who lives across the country
volunteers to pay for the home-delivered meals
as her contribution. They exchange key phone numbers such as
cell and work numbers and agree to back one
another up if scheduling conflicts arise. The family plans a second meeting to
visit area Alzheimer’s units with Don. This way, if that option is needed, the
family will know the area’s resources.
A = Analyze
Coming to consensus on decisions is not always
easy. Gaining factual knowledge and recognizing
things will not always run perfectly is a good
start. Agree ahead of time that everyone will
try to work together and acknowledge that
adjustments will have to be made. Analyze and reassess the planning as the
Assess how the skills of family members are
being used. For example, having someone in the family
with a healthcare background can be beneficial.
This person may know community resources and the
right questions to ask. What frequently happens, though, is other
family members rely on that person as the
expert. Health care providers understand and
know the medical system, but are also
emotionally involved and may need additional
Evaluate if all family members have been
included. Sometimes in-laws or “significant
others” are uncomfortable in participating, not
understanding how much they should speak up.
They may have wonderful skills to offer.