If only we could just agree.
Not on everything. Not on politics, religion, the environment, or the "Space Force," but maybe we could agree on Mom and Dad. We all love them and want them to be safe, healthy, and happy. We want "what's best." AH HA! That's it. Best; this means different things to different people. Sometimes, vastly different.
Our parents' ability to live independently, without help, is changing. It used to be that between the two of them, they had everything pretty well covered. However, Dad's vision has taken a turn. Until recently, he drove, read well, and could manage the mail, the banking, and bills. Mom's vision has been poor for years and is only getting worse. At this point, she is considered 'legally blind.'
Just this one change (Dad's vision) has snowball ramifications for both of them. It's a game-changer. Now Mom and Dad don't have independent transportation and need considerable help managing all the incoming "paperwork" pouring in...just two issues of the many.
So…we call a family meeting.
Our goal? To establish Mom's and Dad's needs, the available options to get help, and identify their vulnerabilities, the possible solutions, and match them up. It looks relatively cut and dry on paper, right? YET…depending on the family, personalities, and dynamics, it can turn into a lively discussion at best, and an all-out fiasco at worst, or somewhere in between.
Caring for our elder loved ones is very personal.
We all have our own "style." Some members sit on the sidelines as the "doers," happy to roll up their sleeves and complete tasks identified by others. Some members may be "the deciders," and exhibit some sibling competition, friendly or not so much. As adults, our values, priorities, and world view may have become different from our siblings. These factors will influence how we all come to this table of discussion and what happens next. You can usually count on a wide variety of passionate opinions when it comes to Mom and Dad.
Face to face, in-person is always best.
Some personalities become overly empowered behind a screen or keyboard. If true in-person can't happen all the way around, Skype or FaceTime are a distant second best.
Put together an agenda. Present factual data on issues to discuss. Get the agenda out to all parties' days before the meeting to help everyone focus their thoughts and keep the meeting on track. Should the conversation digress, frustration can creep in, and your meeting becomes derailed and unproductive.
If your meeting has a format, it may decrease anxiety. Everyone knows ahead of time what to expect. The agenda items have been identified, they stay close to the factual issues, and you've set a time for the meeting to start and end. It does not mean your meeting is devoid of warmth. It is, however, providing a boundary where everyone can feel safe and equally valued.
We may not agree on the interventions; hopefully we can agree on the needs.
Many times, it's not one conversation but many. A positive experience can be a foundation for the second or third talk. It's unlikely that this meeting is a "one and done." With more to follow, being aware of each other, keeping focused on who is at the center of why we are meeting (Mom and Dad), and creating a meeting space and flow where everyone can feel as comfortable as possible is a great place to start.
Remember, "It's never too soon to have the conversation...until it's too late."