As discussed in last week’s blog post, the family meeting is an essential tool for communicating with members of the health care team when you or your loved one is hospitalized. I have participated in numerous family meetings as part of the medical team, but I have also been on the other side of the table as a family member. Despite my formal medical training, these experiences have sometimes been frustrating and disappointing. However, the outcome would have been much worse had I not been prepared. Would you ever attend an important business meeting without doing your homework? Of course, not. There is much more at stake when a family member is seriously ill. Below are some tips that will help you get the most out of your next family meeting. 

Develop a list of questions prior to the meeting. Consider the following:

  • What is the working diagnosis?
  • What tests have been done and what are the results?
  • What is the treatment plan?
  • What is the expected duration of the hospitalization?
  • Will your loved one be able to return home after hospital discharge or will they have ongoing needs requiring transfer to a rehabilitation facility?
  • What can you and other family members do to assist with recovery?

Ask clarifying questions. If the team is using a lot of medical jargon, ask them to rephrase in lay terms.

Identify one or two people who will speak on behalf of the family.

  • It can be confusing and disruptive to have multiple family members speaking at once. The meeting will run more efficiently if there is a sense of cohesion and order among the family.


Take notes during the meeting.

  • You will be filled with many emotions and will not remember much of what was said, so it is important to write things down.


Establish a plan for effective communication moving forward.

  • Provide the name and phone number of the primary caregiver and the health care agent, if one has been assigned. (See blog post on Health Care Power of Attorney.)
  • Write down the names of the physicians caring for your loved one, including the specialists. Ask how you can contact them if needed.


Knowledge is power. This information will empower you to effectively partner with the health care team and advocate for your family member’s best interests.

I’ve created a 2-page worksheet to make things easier for you and your family members. Click here for your free Family Meeting Worksheet.