Communication about life transitions is crucial; whether that be communication between two people or a full family meeting. Siblings, children, grandchildren and even close family friends all seem to come out of the woodwork when it comes time to make decisions about a loved one’s future.
Despite your feelings about your beloved family members, it is key to not dismiss their eagerness to participate, as it can only cause more problems down the road. As challenging as this can be – please do your best to keep open lines of communication with the people who have been long-time supporters throughout your loved one’s life.
Here is a quick guide to organize a family meeting to discuss your loved one’s needs and wants when it comes to later life transitions.
#1- Remember who the family meeting is for.
That being said, don’t talk about your loved one behind their back – involve them. Tell them that you think it would be a good idea to arrange a family meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page. Get their approval and consent. Even if Mom is non-verbal or non-communicative, talk to her. Discuss with her who she would like to have present during the meeting.
#2- Set the agenda.
If your loved one is able to do this ask them to take the lead. Ask them what things they would like to talk about, and what things they do not feel comfortable talking about. This may include:
- Money – income, savings, investments, debts
- Property – selling assets
- Housing – needs, safety, cost of living, housing options
- Health Care – access to free care, cost of private care
- Legal Documents – power of attorney, will
Remember, not everything has to be covered in the first family meeting. Your loved one may be very hesitant to have any meeting at all, and therefore you need to meet them where they are at, which may mean only talking about one of these items.
Helpful resource: Having a Conversation about Money: What to Cover
#3- Pick the time and place.
Throwing in a surprise conversation about Aunt Betty’s living arrangements at the Sunday family dinner is not fair to anyone. Set aside a specific time and place to have these important conversations. Think about where your family may not only feel the most comfortable but will be most likely to engage in a civil discussion. For example, if your brother is likely to get loud, pick somewhere he has to keep the volume down, such as a coffee shop.
Timing is also important. When are your family members at their best? Probably not later in the evening after your sister had to wrestle her kids to sleep, or first thing in the morning when Dad tends to be a little confused. Think about what works best for those involved.
#4- Talk big picture.
Once you’ve got everyone around the table, (the right table at the right time and place), start the conversation by talking about the big picture. What does your loved one want the future to look like? What makes them happy? What excites them – yes, seniors still get excited!
This is not the time to start making funeral arrangements; keep your family meeting positive and light-hearted. If your loved one is not able to communicate their wishes, ask family members to share any memories they have of these discussions with the individual.
#5- Determine how your loved one can live out that picture.
Now that you are all aware of what your loved one wants, you can start to assess what you may need to turn that picture into a reality.
This is where you will speak to the agenda items that have been approved. What money does Uncle Jim have that could support his vision? Does he have assets that could assist? Does he have preferences about where his next home should be?
#6- Wrap up and give homework.
It is important to realize that not everything needs to be determined at the first family meeting. If you see people are getting upset, or Mom is getting tired, start planning for the next meeting. Ask people to do some research at home, “Could you research the real estate market and moving help for seniors?” or, “Could you call the local VON and see what services they can provide?” People generally feel more included, involved and productive when they are assigned a task. Don’t forget to include and ask your loved one first, “Would it be okay if Bill did some real estate market research?”
#7- Follow up with your loved one.
After a day has passed, and everyone has had time to process the meeting event, follow up with Mom to see how she is feeling. Did she feel comfortable? Was there something discussed that made her feel uncomfortable? Are there other things she would like to discuss at the next family meeting?
Do you need help facilitating this family meeting process? Or, would you prefer to avoid it altogether? Surge Senior Solutions exists to make difficult transitions easier. Reach out today to talk about how we can help your loved one while keeping the whole family informed.