Friday, January 23, 2009

Elder Care Issues - Having a Family Meeting

In an ideal world, all family members would share the responsibilities in caring for their elderly parent (s) when that parent can no longer care of themselves or needs assistance in doing so. Unfortunately, in the real world, inner family conflicts, emotional and physical distance, or other interferences prevent such meetings from taking place. In the end, one or two members of the family are left with all of the responsibility and burden of long term care for their parents.

In our case, our family "meeting" involved emailing our brother who lives in Northern California and talking to him when he comes down to visit with his family. Though there are six of us in our family, unfortunately, not all six of us are fully on board with the situation. Why? Read the above paragraph again. You'll probably find some similarities with your own family. If by chance, you are one of the lucky few who is able to gather all of the important figures together, you all have to come up with viable solutions to your parent or parents' needs. Where do you start? What do you talk about?

First rule of thumb, don't expect to have ANYTHING solved with 1,2 or 200 meetings. Circumstances change, people change, feelings change. The purpose of the meeting really, is to enlighten the others on the situation your parents are facing.

Assigning Duties: Probably the most important issue in conducting a meeting would be to decide who is responsible for what. How do you decide who will be responsible for what? In our case we have to put on many hats, because it's just the 2 of us. However, since my sister has an extensive financial background in her previous occupations, she has taken over their finances. Since my dad's stroke 8 years ago, I have been the primary "medical" person. I have taken both he and my mom to most of their doctor's appointments and have a thorough knowledge of their medical histories. Our brother offers input on different subjects from time to time and has offered financial assistance when the time calls for it. Our other sister has taken over nursing duties for our mom when our main caregiver takes her days off. Not all of this has been easy, and we still struggle, but we are working towards a goal and that is to make sure they live the rest of their lives peacefully and that we keep our sanity.

Things to Consider Topics to discuss and to consider are listed below.
· Latest Medical History and needs
· Emotional Needs
· Fears: both shared by parents and children about dying, being overwhelmed, changes in family dynamics after the death of a family member
· Daily Caregiving Needs: should they move in with someone, stay at home, or a facility?
· Safety?
· Financial Concerns
· Legal Concerns
· What type of support do they need? How will it change if their illness progresses?

There's a lot more to consider, but these are good areas to start if not, the most important areas. Think about what may be specific to your family situation too and hopefully, with proper planning, preparation and cooperation, your parents and your lives should run as smoothly as possible.
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