Caregiving family meetings

Using a team approach to caring for a loved one ensures the best care.

Wrinkly hands folded over each other.

With the aging of baby boomers, chances are there will also be an increase in the number of informal caregivers. Michigan State University Extension recognizes that caring for an aging parent may seem like a natural progression of life; however, many are ill prepared to deal with the social, emotional, physical and financial decisions that will arise. If you’re caring for a loved one, a family caregiver meeting can help you navigate the many decisions that need to be made.

If you are making these decisions on your own (for example, if you are an only child), then your scope of consulting would mostly fall between you and your parent. It may be helpful to include a social worker, your care receivers medical care providers and perhaps their religious advisor. The final decisions, however, are up to you and your parent.

If you have siblings, your decision making circle is much larger and has the potential to be highly emotional. It may include a variety of opinions and be loaded with family relationship baggage. Siblings can be a major source of support and a major source of stress. Not everyone thinks alike or has the same amount of time or talent to devote to caregiving. For these reasons, you may want to consider having a family caregiver meeting. A family caregiver meeting can help you work on specific problems, give people a chance to share thoughts, make a list the needs of your loved one and opens discussion about who can best fill those needs and how.

Who you invite depends on your own family dynamics. You may want to consider being more inclusive rather than being exclusive. You may assume someone is not interested or involved enough; however, that person may end up being someone who really has the time and would love to pitch in. More hands tend to make less work. If possible, be sure to include your loved one, as they are the expert on their thoughts, wishes and needs. If relationships with your siblings are typically contentious, you may want to invite a social worker or religious leader to help mediate.

A caregiver family meeting should not be much different from staff meetings at work to address tough issues or lawyers meeting to discuss a plea bargain. Both situations have the potential to be emotionally charged. However, the difference is in the planning. Imagine a lawyer going into a plea bargain meeting unprepared, with no notes, no facts, and just relying on raw emotion. You could be almost sure their client would not be getting the best representation that they need or deserve. A lawyer or a boss goes into a meeting at a set date, time, place with certain people invited. There is an agenda, rules of communication to follow, there is productive discussion, notes are taken, decisions are made, and subsequent meetings may be scheduled. Caregiver family meetings can be run the same way.

Whether you have no siblings or many, a planned and organized caregiver family meeting can help you all make the best decisions possible for your loved one. For more information about caregiving, you may wish to consider signing up for a Powerful Tools for Caregiver class. During six lessons, groups of caregivers explore and share tools for focusing on self-care in order to be able to provide the best care possible to a loved one. To find a class near you visit and search for Powerful Tools for Caregivers. You can also call your local Michigan State University Extension Office to inquire about starting a class in your area.

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