Family caregivers can get help making a plan

Family caregivers who support aging parents, spouses, or loved ones with disabilities, often have trouble coordinating how the family will provide care.

A collection of resources called Our Family, Our Way was developed by Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center and is intended to help families navigate the difficult process of establishing and coordinating care for a loved one.

This includes a detailed guide on how to hold a family meeting.

“It’s to help families think and talk about caregiving together,” said Jennifer Heston-Mullins, who leads the Our Family, Our Way development team.

The resources are available online.

Family caregiving is a common experience -- about 1.5 million Ohioans serve as family caregivers. Ohio’s family caregivers contribute $16.8 billion in unpaid work every year to care for spouses, parents and loved ones with disabilities, AARP Ohio research shows.

Heston-Mullins said it is common for families to end up in an arrangement where one person has care needs, multiple other family members are helping with their care, and one person ends up doing the bulk of the work. A host of issues can come up, such as some people feeling overburdened, or others feeling left out of decisions.

“Often times, there are other people who could be involved f there were some explicit conversations about what’s needed, what’s happening, what could we do in this situation, and how could more people be involved,” she said.

The Our Family, Our Way materials walk a family through the process of holding a family meeting, where members can talk about what kinds of care and support are needed and wanted and how family members can work together to make it happen.

Other resources like videos and tip sheets are also available to help along the way.

The material is free and can be downloaded.

“Some families need help communicating with each other and just don’t know where to begin. Other families need help deciding who will do what, where and when it will happen, and how it will be accomplished,” said Heston-Mullins, who holds a doctorate in gerontology and is a licensed social worker.

In addition to the family meeting materials, the website provides a caregiving resources booklet and tip sheets to help families decide who should be involved in a family meeting, how to prepare for a meeting, how to provide meaningful support from a distance, and other topics.

Additional resources include an “All About Me” document that families can use to help them understand what matters most to the person with care needs and a guide for professionals who want to use Our Family, Our Way in their work with caregiving families.

Heston-Mullins said the resources include information to help families include the person who needs caregiving into the decision process to the best of their ability.

“Because oftentimes, there are conversations that are happening and they often happen without the person with a caregiving need, which could cause a whole different set of issues and problems.,” Heston-Mullins said.

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