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Needs of Elderly Parents

November 06, 2012
Group owner Richard Martine


Needs of Elderly Parents

By: Richard Martine   Post Date : November 06, 2012
At some point you may begin to wonder if your elderly parents need assistance with their activities of daily living. The best approach to planning for such a time is to talk with them about it before a crisis occurs. This may not be easy, especially if you and your parents have avoided frank discussion of sensitive topics in the past. It's often easiest to look for a natural opening to talk about future "what ifs." For example, when someone you both know has just suffered a health crisis or moved to an assisted living facility, you might ask, "Mom, when you aren't able to live here any longer, what kind of place would you like to live?" A natural time to start a discussion about end of life planning, such as a will, a living will, and burial preferences is when a parent says, "When I die..." Then, listen attentively and encourage them to say more. Don't shut off communication by saying things such as, "Don't be morbid," or "You'll probably outlive all of us."

The most common mistake adult children make in trying to help aging parents is to overestimate their parents' needs, and to underestimate their ability to be independent. People resent forced dependency. Remember, unless they have been diagnosed by a professional as mentally incompetent to make major life decisions, the choice of when, whether, and where to move or to accept assistance, is your parents'.

It's best to involve the whole family from the start in the discussion of needs and resources, in order to get everyone's buy-in on any decisions made, and to maximize the sharing of the tasks of caregiving. The best way to do this is with a family meeting. Invite everyone, even those with "difficult personalities" or meager resources, and those who live at a distance - the latter can call in by speaker phone. Conduct it like a business meeting - distribute an agenda in advance, take notes about any decisions or next steps agreed upon, type and distribute notes afterward. If you anticipate problems with a meeting, have a geriatric counselor or consultant lead it. It may also be wise to have your parents' lawyer attend.

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