Family Meetings for Special Needs Families Part 2- Dealing with Dysfunction

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Family Meetings for Special Needs Families Part 2- Dealing with Dysfunction

Editor’s note: This is the second of a multi-part post about the importance of special needs parents hosting family meetings. (Even if you don’t have a family member with special needs, this advice is helpful.)  Begin by reading Part 1 and learn about the benefits of regular family meetings. In this article, special needs mom Cindi Ferrini offers some advice for families dealing with dysfunction in their relationships with extended family members, based on her and her husband’s experience when they faced a difficult situation. ******************************************************************************************** For families with a parent or sibling with a special health need, meetings with extended family members can be very helpful in deciding treatments, reviewing medications, discussing difficulties and how to resolve them, and keeping everyone on the same page and informed. We have seen both sides of this coin.  Some families work well together and each member is there to seek the best for the person needing care as well as how they can best use their gifts and talents to help. Then there are those situations when one family member will not be happy with anything anyone suggests or does. Yet, they can still be heard. Some advice for dealing with dysfunction at family meetings: Sometimes it’s easier when one member says, “I just don’t want to deal with this,” and jumps ship. It’s extremely difficult when one member says, “I’m not going to do anything you ask of me, but I’m going to be in on every discussion and decision.”  So what’s a person to do? In the situation we dealt with, it was decided that no one could spend time with that person alone. That immediately eliminated the “she said, he said, you said, I said” silliness. Notes were taken and documented after each meeting. (Joe had always done this in his dental practice, as we know that what isn’t documented can’t be properly discussed or disputed, whether in simple conversation or if needed, in court.) Only facts and the details of what happened were documented. We told those involved that these documents were available for anyone to review. If the reader of the document came to a particular conclusion, that was fine, but we just stuck with the facts. Yes, some people like to throw “court-related” words around, even family, so for their sake, we recommend taking meticulous notes in front of them, dating and recording them (we used the computer for all notes) and always having the notes available to refer to if needed. This will help you remember what was said, who said it, in an accurate accounting to refer to down the road. In our particular situation, because phones calls always ended with insults, threats, and accusations, we asked that only emails be a part of communications.  That way it was able to be documented and verified. Stick with the facts: As documents are kept, it is important to “stick with the facts.” In other words, we didn’t say things like, “I feel that _______ was being unrealistic.”  It doesn’t matter what you think they were trying to do or say, or how you felt about what was said, only what was said.  It’s sad when it comes to this place, but some people just don’t want to work together with the group.  So, for them, make additional efforts that will “cover your tracks” if ever needed.  We find when we take notes and document everything, we seldom need it!

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