As roles are assigned and the older adult’s needs are addressed, it is important to set goals for the future. The first step in creating goals is agreeing on values. The values and preferences of both the older adult and all family members should be taken into consideration. Consider the following scenarios when discussing your family’s values:
Dedicating any necessary resources to the older adult’s care vs.
Reserving resources so there is an inheritance
Accepting any recommended treatments vs.
Contemplating the risks of overtreatment
Allowing the older adult as much independence as possible vs.
Keeping the older adult as safe as possible
Having family members take on all tasks vs.
Delegating to neighbors or hired help
Doing everything possible to keep the older adult in their home vs.
Moving the older adult to an assisted living facility
If the older adult is unable to give their preferences for those scenarios, consider their past decisions or reactions to older family member’s choices. With those values in mind, it should be relatively easy to set a few goals for the future. For example, a goal may be to keep the older adult in their home as long as possible. Setting this sort of goal can guide other decisions regarding how tasks will be delegated.
A few strategies for sharing information have already been mentioned, such as keeping a shared calendar, group chat, or notebook. However, before deciding on one of these methods, it can be helpful to consider the following:
What does each person want updates on? Updates may be regarding health status, finances, or legal arrangements.
How often will updates be given? Updates may be weekly, monthly, or just when there are major changes.
How will updates be given? Updates may be through email, text, call, or video chat.
There are pros and cons to each method of communication. Online groups, for example, are great for tech-savvy individuals and for sharing documents or links. Text messages, on the other hand, are good for quick updates that do not require much communication. Generally, in-person or video conferences are the best choice for sensitive topics or long discussions. CaringWire provides a secure portal for sharing notes, sharing documents, assigning tasks, and giving health updates.
Staying Positive & Avoiding Conflict
It is important for caregivers and supporters of older adults to periodically reflect on how they’ve helped the older adult and express appreciation for others who provide assistance. A caregiver may reflect on how well they’ve balanced the demands on their time or how much their skills have improved over time. As a family member, expressing gratitude for what others have done can go a long way. Remember, caring for an older adult is a team effort and everyone has the same goal.
If it seems like every family discussion leads to an argument, it can be helpful to seek out a neutral person who can help guide meetings. This neutral person may be a family friend, a family counselor, a social worker, a religious or community leader, or possibly a legal, medical, or financial professional. This person can help ensure ground rules are followed and remind family members why they have dedicated their time to helping a loved one as they age. After family meetings, it can be helpful to voice questions like the following:
Are we communicating well?
Are some people talking too much or too little?
Is everyone being treated fairly?
Are we recognizing each person’s contributions?