Using Collaborative Family Meetings to Make Difficult Conversations Easier

Using Collaborative Family Meetings to Make Difficult Conversations Easier Talking about getting older and dying makes most people uncomfortable, and that discomfort grows exponentially when the conversation is personal. Because of this, too many people put off difficult-but-important conversations with loved ones.

This is why we have a Family Meeting Facilitator on staff. Amy Sereday provides collaborative family meetings to help families get through the tough conversations so they can make better decisions more quickly and with less trauma.

This was exactly what she was able to do for one family who was struggling to come to terms with the reality of their mom’s care choices.

When Things Aren’t Working Out the Way You Expected

David’s mom needed fairly extensive skilled nursing support at home. The family had done some initial asset preservation in order to set aside some money to fund this care, but over the course of eighteen months, those funds had been sorely depleted. Since his siblings lived out of state, it fell to David to have the difficult conversation with his mom about transitioning her onto Medicaid and possibly into a skilled nursing facility.

While David felt that, given his mom’s deteriorating health, a skilled nursing facility might be the safest option, his mother felt strongly about staying in her home. The trouble was that Medicaid would not cover his mother’s existing caregiver, and the prospect of being forced to change caregivers was extremely traumatic for her.

Coming Together to Tackle the Difficult Conversations

While David had attempted a few initial conversations with his mom, they weren’t able to reach any resolution. And — in the meantime — they were still paying for private care out of his mother’s dwindling funds.

The issue was becoming more urgent as time passed, but they had reached something of an impasse. The longer they avoided talking about the problem, the more dire the situation became. Soon, they wouldn’t have any choice left in the matter.

David arranged a meeting with Amy Sereday at CzepigaDalyPope, and then they met at David’s mom’s home for a collaborative family meeting. Using facilitation and brainstorming techniques, Amy was able to provide vital guidance as an empathetic but non-emotional third party. She was able to provide clarity and create a space in which everyone felt safe, supported, and able to speak freely.

Together, they talked about the benefits and drawbacks to each possible solution. They discussed David’s concerns and his mom’s fears. Through this process, David and his mom were able to really hear each other for the first time and understand that they ultimately both wanted the same thing.

Empowering People to Make the Best Decisions

In the end, David and his mom agreed that his mother would continue living at home with the assistance of a skilled caregiver. They also both realized that is was necessary to transition funding for that care to Medicaid, which meant that they would have to switch caregivers.

David’s mom asked Amy to be present when she told her caregiver about the need to make the switch. While the conversation was very upsetting for the mom, having Amy there made it easier, and the caregiver was, of course, completely supportive.

In addition to making initial, broad decisions about the immediate situation, Amy, David, and his mom were also able to establish a detailed framework for how to transition David’s mom to a new caregiver. They were able to work through the timing and whether they could afford to have some overlap between the existing caregiver and the new one. This was extremely important not only for David’s mom’s well being and emotional outlook, but also for their financial stability.

A couple of days after the collaborative family meeting, David’s mom hosted all her children for a Mother’s Day event. With her out-of-town kids home, David’s mom took the opportunity to share the decisions she and David had made together about her care. This was an unexpected conversation, but one that alleviated a lot of tension and gave the entire family some much-needed peace of mind.

Participating in the collaborative family meeting had helped David’s mom feel more in control and able to take ownership of her situation. Instead of feeling scared and suspicious, she felt informed and empowered. And that made all the difference.