Critter Corner: Questions to Ask at a Family Meeting

Dear Ernie and Jannette,

My wife and I have a family meeting planned where we will be discussing senior housing and end-of–life options for her mother, who is in the initial stage of Alzheimer’s, so now is a good time to figure out the best way to proceed. I know with all of the different personalities in the room that it won’t be easy. Do you have any suggestions for questions we can address during the meeting?


D. Cisions

Dear D,

Discussing and deciding on end-of-life planning and living arrangements for a loved one can be very difficult, but quite essential. Children, parents, extended family members, and friends may all have different perspectives on what’s important. A meeting is necessary to get everyone on the same page before you get deep into the decision-making process.

It can sometimes be hard to reach a consensus among family members about what’s best for an aging parent. But these conversations are essential, and ultimately lead to understanding, compromise, and making the decisions that are best for everyone involved.

Factors such as health, finances, location of family members, and degree of independence will all play a significant role in determining the best future housing options to meet the needs of your mother-in-Law. Below are some of the areas you should discuss and some helpful questions for your family to ponder:

Living Arrangements

• What do you value most in a living arrangement?
• Do you want to be in a social environment, or a solitary environment?
• Do you want to stay in the city you live in, or would you consider moving to another city?
• Do you have a strong preference for staying in your home, moving to a family member’s home, or moving to a care facility?
• What is the optimal location for the residence?
• Is the residence you’re considering close enough so that you’d have regular visitors?
• If you’ll have visitors regularly coming in from out of town, is the residence easily accessible to those people?
• Can the residence you’re considering meet your current medical care needs?
• Can the residence meet your likely future needs if your health deteriorates?
• Can it help you with the basic activities of daily living that you might need help with?
• Does the staff have experience caring for someone in your situation?
• Degree of independence: How much help and care will you require (and desire)?
End-of-life care
• If you were diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, what types of treatment would you prefer?
• Have you named someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so?
• How would you like your choices honored at the end of life?
• What can I do to best support you and your choices?

Finances: What can you afford?

• What are the daily, weekly, and monthly costs of the residence you’re considering?
• Do you have long-term care insurance, or another way of paying for the care you currently need or will need in the future?
• Will Medicaid help pay for housing costs?
• Health: What level of care is required?

The most important aspect of making end-of-life living arrangements is open communication. There are often many people involved in making these decisions, such as children, grandchildren, and siblings, and everyone involved should be able to participate in the conversation. Even if decisions are being made on behalf of someone else, such as an aging parent, listening to that person and including him or her in the conversation is important as well.

Hop this is helpful and good luck with the family conversation!

Ernie and Janette

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.