OK. I will give away the punch line first. In this article we discuss the need for a Family Meeting. It’s a great opportunity for a family to pull together. Sometimes for the first time ever, for the benefit of another person – their beloved Mom or Dad.
It always happens around holiday time. The kids, who may not have been home since last Christmas or Thanksgiving come home for the holidays. They are expecting a joyful time with their elderly parents and siblings. However when they arrive, they are in for quite a shock.
It becomes obvious within minutes of their arrival, that things are not quite right with Momma. They had expected to arrive finding the house in perfect condition and the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal well underway. When they arrived they were shocked to find out that Momma had forgotten that they were coming, even though they had spoken with her by phone earlier in the week. Instead of a baked turkey and smell of Momma’s apple pie wafting through the air, they encountered a slightly disoriented Mom and no Thanksgiving turkey on the table.
The newly arriving out of town kids immediately called their local siblings to ask what was going on with Momma. Even though the siblings may have discussed Mom’s decline several times throughout the year, it just didn’t seem (to the out of town kids) that it was really that bad.
I wonder how many thousands of times that this scenario will play out this holiday season? My guess is that it will happen a lot. If you are the shocked out of town kid and encounter such a situation, just know that there are things that you can and should do before you get back on the plane and fly home. Here is a short list:
1. Immediately schedule a family meeting. This should be with Momma if she is capable of attending, along with your siblings. If one of the siblings is out of town and was unable to come home this year, get them on a conference call where they can be virtually there with the rest of the family at this meeting.
2. Empathetically listen to strongly held opinions. If there is more than one sibling, recognize that each sibling may have strongly held opinions as to what is best for Momma. Old sibling rivalries may surface and tempers may flare, but…
3. Keep your focus on the best interest of Mom. Remember that the primary topic on the family meeting agenda will be “What should we do to help ensure the best quality of life for Momma?
4. Ask Momma her preference. If she realized she may realize she is declining and may have this just been trying to make this last as long as they would. She probably just didn’t want to trouble anyone.
5. Family help? Discuss whether she can stay at home for a period of time with a family member checking in. If not would outside professional helpers help enable her to stay home.
6. Finances Does Momma have the finances to pay for outside caregiver’s? Does she even want outside caregivers coming into her home?
7. Independent or Assisted Living Facility? If she doesn’t want “outsiders” coming into her home, would she consider living in an Independent Living Facility or an Assisted Living Facility? If this is an option, you may want to schedule tours of such facilities with her.
8. Nursing Home Care? If Mom’s health has declined substantially, then it may be time to tour a Skilled Care Facility.
9. Appointment with Geriatric Physician In any event, it would be critical at this point to schedule an appointment with her physician. If she is going to a general practice physician, it may be a great idea to schedule a time with a geriatric physician or other specialist who deals in matters of the elderly.
10. Appointment with Financial Advisor It may also be a good idea to schedule a meeting with her financial advisor, to see if her finances are in order. (1) Check to see if it is possible to reposition assets so that they generate additional income to help pay for her care. (2) Check to see that her finances are invested appropriately for a person of her age and condition. (3) Also determine whether the money be accessed immediately by her attorney. In fact or by another trusted person to use for her care when needed. Obviously see the advice of her advisor, attorney and other qualified professionals in this area.
11. Appointment with Elder Law Attorney Mom may also need to contact her elder law attorney to update (or do for the first time) her estate planning documents. Does she have powers of attorney in place and appropriate Health Care documents.
12. The key is to make sure a plan is in place that is in the overall best interest of Mom and the family. As the facilitator of the meeting, try to do your best to include everyone and make sure the primary goal is developing a plan that is Mom’s best interest.
In the above “tips” it is assumed that Mom still has the capacity to act on her own. If this is not the case, you may need to consult with her attorney to see what options that you may have to act on her behalf.
We hope that if you come home for a visit this holiday season that you don’t encounter a shocker like the out of town kid did in our scenario. However if you do, we hope you have a great Family Meeting. Hopefully, your Family Meeting will go so well. So that this won’t be the “one last time” that the family meets together for a great cause. We wish you the best this holiday season!