Remember when your parents were lecturing you on the rules for taking the car for a spin? Dad would put his face in front of yours and say, “Are you listening?” Of course you would say “sure” even though your mind was miles away on the adventure to come.
Today, as adults, the children who received the council and wisdom of their parents are facing a reverse situation in their lives. They are finding themselves concerned with what their aging parents will need as their health and mental abilities fail them. In some cases the children must take the role as parent in securing the safety and well-being of an elderly family member.
A Case Scenario
Julie lives 600 miles from her mother. Knowing her mothers health is frail and she lives alone, Julie calls her every evening after work. The conversation always goes like this;
“How are you doing today, Mom?” Julie asks.
“Everything’s fine,” Mother replies.
“Are you taking your pills?”
“Yes, everything’s fine.”
“Do you need anything?”
Julie does not get much more conversation from her mother. Perhaps everything is fine, or perhaps Julie’s mother just wants Julie to think she can take care of herself. Even worse, Mother could think all is fine and be forgetting her medication and not eating properly.
Is Julie really listening?
ARE YOU LISTENING?
It may be time to put your face in front of your parent and listen.
Assuming that all is well and that your elderly family member knows and does what is best for themselves, may be putting them at risk. Become a partner with them in their care. The best time to form the partnership is before a crisis happens.
Donna Schempp, a licensed clinical social worker and program director at the Family Caregiver Alliance, states that in talking to your parents, “The sooner, the better. If you bring up the subject before your parents need any extra support, then it’s not crisis driven,” she explains. “It’s not the same as saying, “Mom, Dad, there’s something wrong with you.”
Ask the Right Questions
A good way to begin is to sit with your parents and ask questions such as, “What are your concerns for the future. Do you want to remain in your home? Are you worried about losing your independence?” Listen to their answers. You might relate your concerns as well, or your desire to be of help.
In become a partner in planning for care and helping your loved one, you need to know what legal and financial arrangements are in place. By asking, “What if you had a stroke, Mom, I would need to know where your medical and insurance documents are and what you would have me do in your behalf.”
Take the Next Step
The next step might be to accompany them to their doctor appointment so as to understand what their medical needs are and to help create a plan for future needs.
The National Care Planning Council’s book “The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning” gives the following list of the most common services family caregivers will provide for their parents.
- Walking, lifting, and bathing
- Using the bathroom and with incontinence
- Providing pain management
- Preventing unsafe behavior and preventing wandering
- Providing comfort and assurance or arranging for professional counseling
- Answering the phone
- Making arrangements for therapy, meeting medical needs, and doctors’ appointments
- Providing meals
- Maintaining the household
- Shopping and running errands
- Providing transportation
- Administering medications
- Managing money and paying bills
- Doing the laundry
- Attending to personal hygiene and personal grooming
- Writing letters or notes
- Making repairs to the home; maintaining a yard
As you become involved, you will know when it is time to bring in professional services to help or when the need to find new living arrangements is necessary. Begin now to talk, listen and plan together to make the new journey through aging more pleasant for everyone involved.
Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies