Starting a family discussion

Discussions help families understand and respect older relatives' wishes, share information and make decisions together.

Focus family discussions around the older adult's needs, wishes and priorities.

Before suggesting a family discussion, ask yourself:

  • What do I want to get out of this family discussion?

  • Do I have concerns? If so, what have I seen or heard that made me concerned?

  • What don't I know? What assumptions might I be making?

  • Am I trying to convince others to do what I think is best? Am I open to other possibilities?

Set a small goal for your first family discussion. For example, your goal could be to update family members on the older adult's needs or to ask everyone what they're doing or could do to help out.

Good conversation starters include facts, friends' or family members' experiences, or news stories. For example:

  • "Frank always says how much it helped them to have monthly calls with Aunt Ellen. What do you think about doing something like that?"

  • "Barb says she spends a day or two a week helping her mom, but no one in her family realizes that. Let's talk about what each of us is doing to help the older adult."

  • "Did you know that most families don't discuss who will do what to help their parents or grandparents? How would you feel about discussing plans for our family?"

Be honest about your reasons for wanting a family discussion. Acknowledge that others might see the situation differently.

During the discussion, focus on understanding other people's points of view. Don't push for decisions or actions right away. Don't try to cover too much in your first family discussion.

Try to end on a positive note. If you can, agree on next steps, like sharing information or opinions on a certain topic.