The Family Meeting
Another way to start the conversation is to call a family
meeting. This way everyone parents and adult children
will understand the problems; all will have a chance
to participate in the solutions. If a sibling is out of town,
try to set up a teleconference. The only reason a parent should
be excluded is if he is too mentally impaired to understand
or contribute and would impair any progress.
How to organize
a family meeting
Invite all family members affected by eldercare planning;
also consider the family physician or other professional
an agenda and follow normal rules of order
everything down and manage the information so nothing gets
lost and no-one falls through the inevitable cracks in the
all the concerns and prioritize according to urgency
a plan of action cannot be determined due to lack of concrete
information, consider an assessment
When consensus is achieved (if possible), assign specific
tasks to family members i.e. the "accountant child" will
do the tax returns, another will be responsible for transportation
to medical appointments etc.
a list of all informal supports available e.g. friends,
locate the formal supports in your area e.g. day programs,
Meals-on-Wheels, home care, respite care, friendly visiting
What if a parent does not want to talk or thinks everything
is all right? Try to understand the reasons. Consider bringing
in an outsider or facilitator a trusted family friend,
family physician or social worker to mediate the situation.
You may have to leave the room. Proceed slowly; let your parent
think "it was their idea". If siblings cannot agree, hold
a separate meeting and hash out the solutions. If necessary,
consider a mediator for this meeting as well.
Sometimes an adult child may hit a wall; a parent refuses
all help even though he is at risk but cannot be moved because
he is still deemed competent. In such a situation the caregiver
can only stand by and wait until something happens
a fall, a fire which necessitates medical or other
intervention. This is called "dignity of risk" and a situation
no one wants to face. If you find yourself in this position,
try to be as well-prepared as possible. Even if your parent
refuses to recognize that there is a problem and they need
care, talk to health care professionals, community support
workers, legal experts, etc., to garner useful information.
Steps to Take
- Expect and accept that your parents will grow old. Aging is not
a disease; it is part of the life cycle
- Start talking to your parents now about what they
want as they age. If they want to stay in their own home,
should they be looking at home modifications
to make it easier to go up/down stairs or to use the bathroom
if a wheelchair is required?
- Understand the critical role of legal and financial planning. Start
to gather information about your parents' financial security;
learn where original documents are stored. Ensure your parents
have prepared necessary documents such as wills, advance
directives and powers of attorney. Be prepared for some
emotional encounters but don't give up.
- Talk to your siblings about how you plan to divide responsibility
for your parents' well-being.
- If a parent suffers from a particular disease heart
or stroke, arthritis, diabetes, dementia learn all
you can now about the disease and what a caregiver can expect
as the disease progresses.
- Ask questions about the health care system in your parents'
province; understand what alternate accommodations exist,
how home care operates, what social services are available.
- Talk to your peers about how they are facing the challenges of
eldercare, the problems they have encountered and solutions
they have found.
- Finally, take an objective look at yourself. Are you prepared to
be a caregiver for a parent? How will you accomplish this,
along side your other roles as a business professional,
- Don't make promises you may not be able to keep i.e. "you can
always live with us" or "I'll never put you in a home"
- Don't concentrate on what your parents can't do; focus on maximizing
what they can do
- Become educated and aware
- Understand and accept your feelings
- Talk with others in your situation
- Involve and empower your parents
Open communication with your parents is the most powerful
tool you have to help ensure you and your parents age gracefully
together. It's never too early or too late to
begin this critical conversation.
Think ahead and prepare yourself and your parents for what
will happen so you can honestly say: "I have done the best
that I can."