By Jean Wise
Written communication is vital, so notes
should be taken and sent to everyone.
O = Organize
Categorizing is the next step. Who is doing what?
What needs to be explored?What deadlines need to be
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 clarify
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
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 situation progresses.
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 emotional support.