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 about their aging parents and what their needs will be 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.

Sharon  lives 600 miles from her father. Knowing her father’s health is frail and he lives alone, Sharon calls her Dad every evening after work. The conversation always goes like this;

“How are you doing today Dad, Sharon asks?
“Everything’s fine”, Sharon replies.
“Are you taking your pills?”
“Yes, everything’s fine.”
“Do you need anything?”
“Everything’s fine.”

Sharon does not get much more conversation from her father. Perhaps everything is fine, or perhaps Sharon’s father  just wants Sharon to think he can take care of himself.  Even worse, Dad  could think all is fine and be forgetting his medication and not eating properly.

Is Sharon 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 them, 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. The best time to have this conversation is before a crisis occurs.

A good way to begin is to sit with your parents and ask questions like, 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 you 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,  I would need to know where your medical and insurance documents are and what you would have me do in your behalf.”

The next step might be to accompany them to their doctor appointment  to understand what their medical needs are and help create a plan for future needs. Or if that is not possible, engaging a geriatric case manager in your parent’s area can be a great resource to assist you. Many health care advocates offer a “medical buddy” service where a health care professional can accompany your loved one on their health care appointments. A medical buddy is there to observe, listen and ask follow up questions on behalf of the patient/family. But nothing beats spending a weekend with an elderly loved one to really be able to assess their needs. Keep that in mind as you ask your Mom or Dad, are  you ok?

In good health,

Health Champion