As a caregiver, you may often feel responsible for making all the health care decisions for your relative who is ill. This feeling comes from the great sense of love and responsibility you have towards your loved one.

Including family members in conversations about treatment and goals will help facilitate discussions with the health care team and get everyone on the same page.

1. What is a family meeting?

The family meeting is between family caregivers, the patient (if possible), and the patient’s health care team. The purpose is to provide a forum for information exchange and decision-making. The meeting provides an opportunity to clarify your knowledge about your loved one’s medical situation, including the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan.

2. What are the indications that I should request a Family Meeting?

Usually, the physician requests a family meeting, but the patient and the family can also do so. If your loved one’s condition is worsening, or you need a medical update, it may be time to have a Family Meeting and get other family members involved.

3. How do I schedule a Family Meeting?

If you believe a family meeting would benefit your family, you can request a meeting from your relative’s doctor, nurse, social worker, or another team member. Meetings will generally last 30 minutes to 1- hour.

4. Who should attend the Family Meeting?

Generally, the physician and other health care team members attend the Family Meeting, along with family members and the patient, if the patient can participate. Nurses can help patients and caregivers understand medical information. Social workers can provide support, information, and access to entitlements and resources. It is generally up to the patient and the primary caregiver, who should be invited to participate. Having more than one family member present at the meeting may be helpful.

5. How can the Family Meeting benefit my family and me?

Family meetings have many benefits.

  • Gets everyone on the same page. Having everyone together and hearing the same information provides an excellent avenue for communication and decision-making. The family meeting offers a safe space to receive medical information, make treatment decisions, and ensure the care plan reflects the patient’s values and wishes.
  • Reduces stress. Having your family involved and aware of your loved one’s medical condition provides an outlet for discussion and help during decision-making.
  • Provides a forum for advance care planning. It may be that during your loved one’s illness, they may not be able to make decisions independently. A family meeting is an excellent opportunity to discuss how to handle specific medical decisions in the future if this situation comes to pass. Learn more about advance directive options.

6. How do I prepare for a Family Meeting?

It is always beneficial to prepare a list of questions ahead of the meeting. Choose a place that is neutral territory and where everyone feels welcome. The discussion should be held where everyone feels safe expressing opinions and concerns. To minimize distractions, it is advisable to put your phone on do not disturb for the duration of the session. Leave time for questions and plan on following up in writing with what was discussed and agreed on. We’ve prepared a list of questions to help you along the way.

7. What will happen during the Family Meeting?

Typically, the medical team will give the family an overview of the patient’s progress and answer any questions related to the diagnosis. After the medical team is finished, the family should discuss additional questions and topics they have for each other regarding caring for their loved one.

At MJHS, we value both personal and professional caregivers and recognize the critical work you do. That is why we have created these online caregiving resources to help you through this crucial time in your life.

If you need additional help and support caring for your loved one, please feel free to contact MJHS. We can recommend other care options available to you through one of our programs.

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