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Long Distance Caregiving

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Soaring Through a Family Meeting

By Jean Wise

(Page 2 of 3)

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 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 clarify communications.

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 problems later.

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 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.

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