As our parents age, we are fortunate to enjoy an ever-evolving relationship with them. With time comes perspective, and with that perspective comes a new way for adults to relate with their parents. 

Of course, the golden years aren’t without their challenges. And as the Baby Boomer generation ages, their children are now confronted with big questions about the next phase of their parents’ lives. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some thoughtful advice about how to know when your aging parent may need extra help, and what the pros and cons of different approaches might be, courtesy of Dr. Robert Misurell, a licensed family therapist with more than 27 years of experience. 

1. Know when to step in.

How do you know if your aging parent needs help? Everyone agrees that independent living is the ideal situation (in fact, 95% of those aged 65 and older would prefer to stay in their own homes), but a hands-off approach could mean that your aging parent is at risk. You can be on the lookout for a few telltale signs that they may need a little extra help. Look for mounting household clutter, unpaid bills and rotten food in the refrigerator. These elements of neglect may indicate an inability to manage a household. Likewise, things like burned pots, confusion, bruises, social withdrawal, forgotten medication times and dangerous driving could be the signs of a mental state that is no longer ideally suited to independent living. 

2. If you must intervene, start with a family meeting.

Choosing to change your parent’s living situation isn’t something you should do unilaterally if you can help it. It’s a big job, and you’ll need all the help you can get. Sit down with siblings, aunts and uncles, and any family members who have a stake in the health and wellbeing of your parent or parents. Voice your concerns, and gauge the commitment of different family members when it comes to taking on extra responsibilities for care – whether it’s time and effort or financial resources. This is also a good time to weigh all your options, so...

3. Know that every option has pros and cons.

If your aging parent needs help, it boils down to either inviting them to move in with a family member, or placing them in a trusted facility. 

If you choose to have your aging parent move in with a family member, you can enjoy peace of mind, more time with a loved one, possible help with child rearing and household tasks, a sense that you’re giving back to your parents, less cost and a good way of modeling family-centric behavior for your own children. This approach comes with considerable challenges as well, however. These include the need to possibly rearrange bedroom assignments within your family, make special food, identify which family members will help out and when, giving medication, bathing, and dealing with sleep problems and other chronic issues – not to mention the possibility of making physical changes in your home including walk-in showers, lever doorknobs, wheelchair-width hallways and doorways, grab bars in the bathroom, nightlights, secured rugs, easy-open cabinets, shower seating and more. Fortunately, some contractors specialize in these upgrades, so look for one who is a designated Certified Aging in Place Specialist. 

On the other hand, placing your aged parent in a facility has some upsides and downsides, too. A good facility provides additional socialization for their residents (which has been proven to lead to greater happiness and longevity), as well as more freedom, more support and more specialized care. It’s also less complex emotionally – for everyone involved. On the downside, quality facilities can be expensive, and paying for them can become burdensome on families, which creates stressors of its own.  

These are the kinds of decisions that are best made as a family. Remember to invite everyone into the discussion – that way no one family member is shouldering the responsibility alone. And if handled with care and compassion, this phase of your lives can be rewarding for everyone. Under the direction of Dr. Misurell, FirstService Residential has developed a Longevity Program designed to increase the vitality of residents who live in their managed communities.

Contact FirstService Residential for more about this resource and program. 
Thursday September 18, 2014