This is the 2nd post in a series on having a family care conference. See part 1, “Family Care Conference: Getting on the Same Page,” HERE
Your first family care conference might have felt overwhelming. No doubt, there were a lot of strong emotions. It may have been the first time you met as a family to talk about the cancer you or a loved one is facing. You may feel like you never want to do that again, So why more meetings?
The first family care conference got all of the facts out there. Some people may have had a hard time adjusting to the news. shock and denial are common reactions. Thankfully, family members and friends often get their bearings and figure out how they can best help.
After a few weeks, family members have had a chance to process their feelings. That’s when it’s time to have a second family care conference.
Unspoken communication is often wrong communication.
Living with cancer is a journey and like any journey, the scenery changes. Treatments change, Needs change. By this time, the patient and caregiver will have a better idea of what they’re up against, and how extended family and friends can help. You may also be more willing to accept help. Too often we “protect” one another to the detriment of all involved. We assume others won’t want to help. At the same time, family and friend feel like you won’t let them help, even though they want to, more than anything. Don’t assume you’re a burden.
Extended family and friends will have also, not doubt, have been thinking of things they would like to do to support the patient and their family. People will have to ask for what they need, directly. This can be difficult for those who aren’t used to being assertive.
Running the Family Care Conference
Like the first family care conference, it’s helpful if someone can take a leadership role, putting together an agenda and keeping things on track. This can be the patient or caregiver. They’ll need to make sure that everyone is heard, since some family members are more assertive than others. Some will be downright overbearing. Occasionally, this can lead to someone feeling offended, so it’s usually better to have a close, trusted family member run the meeting,
Someone else can take notes on what is said. They can also write down what people volunteer to do. This will be extremely useful later on when putting together a support schedule. They should distribute a written summary of the meeting as well as what people agreed to help with.
The Agenda of the Next Family Care Conference
Some of the things you should discuss are:
- Visits: How do the patient and their family feel about visits? They may not need so many in the beginning, but over time, could change their mind. Who would like to visit? How long would they stay?
- Respite for the Caregiver: One caregiver can’t do it all. In the hospital, a patient has 4 people per shift, not including laundry service, meals, and maintenance. If one person is shouldering it all, they can burn out, and even snap. Caregivers shouldn’t feel embarrassed that they can’t do everything. That’s the beauty of being part of a family. There are others who can do what you can’t.
- Who would be willing to provide the spouse/caregiver a break, so that they can get out of the house for a couple of hours and recharge?
- Could someone help with chores such as shopping, cleaning, and laundry?
- Appointments: Who can babysit when the patient has appointments? Who can take the patient to appointments if the spouse is unable to? Is someone willing to take kids to appointments to help out with a busy treatment schedule?
- Prayer: If your family is Christian, are there people willing to commit to praying daily for the patient, the spouse, and their children? Perhaps each member of the family could have someone praying specifically for them.
- Encouragement: Are there people who are good at sending encouraging notes or cards? Who will call at least once a week to check in with the patient? It would be good for each member of the patient’s immediate family to have this kind of personal encouragement.
- Meals: Are there several people who can provide meals for the family during treatment or once a week to alleviate stress for the caregiving spouse?
- Updates: Someone should set up a website such as caringbridge.org or lotsahelpinghands.com to coordinate volunteers, as well as to distribute updates. You can also use a phone tree to distribute updates/prayer requests. Set this up right away to prepare for any time information needs to be quickly shared with the family.
- What other ways can each person can help?
The Blessing of Serving
It often benefits the person helping as much as the family being supported. This can deepen relationships significantly, and offer opportunities to spend time with one another.
Find a way to help
At the end of the family cafe conference, schedule another meeting to see how things are going. Each time you meet, consider any changes you need make in order to best care for the patient, their spouse, and children.
For more ideas on how to support someone who has cancer, buy my book: Facing Cancer as a Friend. It’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.
When you Fear the Worst
Depending on the patient’s prognosis and where the patient is on their cancer journey, there may be concerns about what will happen if, and/or when the patient dies. Next week’s post will be about holding a late stage family care conference.
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com