Christine M. Valentin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who specializes in working with caregivers. She has an excellent website at familycaregiversocialworker. One of her recent posts concerned how caregivers can manage successful family meetings. Here are her top four tips for family meetings with caregivers. Keep in mind, a successful family meeting won’t always end with unanimity, but it can allow every family member the opportunity to be respectfully heard. Sometimes that’s more important than everyone being in complete agreement about what to do for mom or dad. Here are her tips:
Caregiver Tips for Family Meetings:
- Everyone who attends the meeting should, at the very least, want to attend and respect the viewpoints of other family members/attendees. This is not to say they have to agree with everything that is said, but if they are solely attending the meeting to get others to side with their viewpoint, then it won't work.
- The purpose for the meeting should be made very clear when inviting people to attend and should also be reviewed at the start of the meeting. Family members/attendees should not show up believing certain topics will be addressed because it could lead to a feeling of mistrust, skepticism and in some cases, complete disregard for what is being said.
- Don’t be afraid to bring in a mediator. Whether this individual is a professional or the most level-headed person in the family, having someone who can make sure the discussion doesn't get too personal can be of great assistance. During family meetings, it is not uncommon for past conflicts or accusations to get in the way of the objective for the meeting. Having a mediator can help refocus the group.
- Assuming that this meeting will solve everything, will only set you up for disappointment. Any family meeting, especially the first few, will most likely be filled with a lot of clarification, explanation and emotion. Set your goals low but aim high. Once you get a feel for how the meeting is flowing, then you can get a sense for how many topics can be addressed.
Ms. Valentin closes her list with an important thought, which is that while there are no guarantees that a family meeting will resolve your caregiving issues/conflicts, there is a great chance that people who attend a structured, goal-oriented meeting will come out experiencing a greater understanding of another person's viewpoint and a sense of relief. If a plan of action is devised and agreed upon by all, then the meeting was definitely a success!