Sharing information with family members

Families who share information are able to work together to support older relatives.

Ask how family members want to share information, including:

  • What do you want updates on: the older adult's health, finances, legal arrangements or meetings with advisors?

  • How do you like to communicate: by email, text message, phone call, video chat or online group?

  • How often do you want updates: weekly, monthly or when something changes or needs attention?

  • How do you want to have serious discussions: in person, on the phone or over email or text?

Different technologies tend to work better for different kinds of communication.

Email, online groups and forums (for example, Google Groups or private Facebook groups) tend to work for:

  • More web savvy people

  • Messages that aren't time-sensitive, like regular updates

  • Sharing documents or links to online information

  • Organizing people to share tasks, like giving rides

  • Continuing discussions from family meetings

Text messages (for example, group texts or WhatsApp Messenger) tend to work for information that is:

  • Time-sensitive

  • Short and straightforward

  • Doesn't require much discussion

In person meetings, phone calls or video chats (for example, Skype, Google Hangouts or Marco Polo) work well when:

  • You're discussing something that's complicated or sensitive

  • There will be lots of discussion

  • The tone or feeling of the conversation is important

Phone trees can help families reach a lot of people quickly. To set up a phone tree, one person (the "top" of the tree) calls two people. Each of them then calls two more people, and so on, until everyone has been called. Phone trees work best for simple messages, since what's said might change a bit as it moves down the tree.

Phone trees are also a good way to share health updates. The family member who speaks with the healthcare professional is the "top" of the tree in this case. Medical offices are often too busy to share the same information with multiple family members.