When my father was diagnosed with mesothelioma, I was too young to remember all of the details. It was a chaotic time in my life, and everyone’s emotions were running wild. I was 14 years old, and I didn’t understand the tornado of feelings swirling around my family.
I remember my parents sitting me down at our dining room table and telling me about my father’s diagnosis. At the time, I didn’t really have any questions because I had no idea what I should ask.
It seemed like everything just happened so fast. Once he got the diagnosis, my mom took care of him, and I took care of the household chores. Maybe if we had been a bit more organized and held a family meeting, things would have been a little easier for us.
If we had gathered all of our family members and potential caregivers, we could have built a better support system for my dad. We had plenty of loving people who could have assisted in small ways to make a huge impact.
Benefits of Support After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
It’s hard when a loved one receives a serious diagnosis. I truly understand the turmoil and uncertainty that follows. For many families, the diagnosis is easier to deal with if everyone joins in to face it together.
It takes more than one person to care for someone with cancer. Calling a family meeting is a good way to inform your loved ones about the diagnosis and get them involved.
Gathering everyone provides an opportunity to answer important questions, discuss future plans and build a strong support system. It can also help reduce caregiver stress.
One of the best resources I’ve found about conducting family meetings is a guide from the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Established in 1977, the organization aims to educate and support caregivers while advocating for families.
The guide offers helpful tips and ideas on holding a family meeting. It also explains the importance of cooperation when caring for a loved one so the primary caregiver doesn’t become overwhelmed.
Who Should Attend?
Everyone interested in helping care for your loved one should attend the meeting, including relatives, friends, neighbors and paid caregivers. Having different perspectives and ideas can help when it comes to solving problems and working through disagreements.
It may also be helpful to include a social worker or another person outside the family to lead meetings or help the family talk about difficult topics.
You will have to make a decision about whether your loved one with cancer should attend every meeting. It often helps to have the person you’re caring for there to voice ideas, desires and concerns, but it may be difficult for everyone to be open and honest when he or she is present.
If the decision is to not include the person with cancer, be sure to keep him or her updated on each meeting and any important decisions you make.
Getting Everyone Together
If your family is anything like mine, it’s hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time. FCA suggests you should make reasonable accommodations for people, but always keep the needs of your loved one in mind.
Time is of the essence when you are making plans to provide care for a family member. If some people can’t attend the meeting, you can always make a phone call or send an email afterward to keep them in the loop.
Sometimes it’s easier for distant friends and family members to attend the meeting over the phone or group video chat. Include as many people as possible, but don’t delay the meeting because someone is unable to attend.
Topics to Address
FCA’s guide explains it is important for caregivers to plan family meetings in advance. Pre-plan what will be covered in the meeting with an agenda.
Establishing an agenda ahead of time helps members maintain focus throughout the meeting and ensure the group addresses all important issues. Some organization will also help everyone feel as though they contributed equally and made their voice heard.
The agenda for your meeting is likely to be as unique as your family. The topics to cover will vary depending on your loved one’s diagnosis and the current situation.
Some important topics you may want to address include:
- Overview of the diagnosis
- Latest report from doctors
- Current prognosis
- Goals of treatment
- Daily caregiving needs
- Ways each person can help
- Financial concerns
Keep in mind you don’t need to resolve everything in one meeting. In fact, it may be a good idea to schedule regular meetings to share health updates and discuss any new issues or needs that may arise.
Facing a tough diagnosis sometimes brings out the worst in families, and it is easy to lash out at each other during this time. If you’re worried about this happening, you should consider bringing in a third party to facilitate meetings.
The initial family meeting is not the time to air dirty laundry or settle scores. All families have issues and not everyone will get along well.
It helps to keep things in perspective. The reason you are all there is to support a loved one. If necessary, you can address family problems at a later time. Keep the meeting focused and professional so your family’s caregiving goals can be accomplished.
It is your duty as a caregiver to swallow your pride and do whatever it takes to get along for a while. The last thing a mesothelioma patient needs to worry about is backbiting family squabbles. Your loved one must focus on health and wellness, and family caregivers can help maintain that focus.
This particular family meeting is a time for family and friends to set aside their problems and join forces toward a common goal: Providing the best care for someone you all love.