Keeping the family discussion going

Your follow-up discussions can help family members work together to support the older adult.

Follow-up discussions can be good opportunities to:

  • Share and discuss new information

  • Ask if the older adult's needs or wishes have changed

  • Weigh the pros and cons of different options

  • Make a decision

  • Ask how past decisions are working out

If family members agreed on next steps during your first discussion, it can be easy to start the next one. For example: "Did you find a healthcare power of attorney form?" or "I'd like to hear what you think about this home safety program."

Other ways to start a follow-up family discussion include:

  • Building on a specific point from the previous discussion. "We all agreed to help the older adult eat healthier meals. So, how can we do that?"

  • Discuss a different topic: "the older adult's interested in a reverse mortgage. How can we find out about them?"

  • Try to understand one another's point of view: "It sounds like we disagree about the older adult's housing options. I want to hear more about what you all think."

  • Explain why a topic is important to you: "It may seem like I'm overreacting, but an emergency could happen anytime. I want to make sure we know what to do."

  • Space out conversations: "It's been a month since we talked about taking turns visiting the older adult on weekends. How's it going?"

Encourage family members to share thoughts and opinions by asking open-ended questions like, "What do we need to make good decisions together?" If you ask lots of leading questions-like "Isn't this option really the best?"-it can seem like you're just trying to get others to go along with what you want.

Give family members time to get and consider new information.

If you make decisions or plans, make sure that everyone understands what will happen and their role in it. Taking and sharing brief notes can help.

Encourage family members to be honest about what they can do. Ask if anyone wants to make changes to their task list.

Avoid discussing helping the older adult every time you see family members. Try to balance the "serious" talk with time enjoying each other's company.