Notice Decline in Your Aging Parents? Action Steps — Part 1
In a recent post I provided a checklist to use in assessing your aging parents’ daily living situations while spending time together during the holidays. If you noticed signs of decline in either their physical or cognitive abilities, what steps can adult children take next? Here are some do’s and don’ts.
Don’t Feel Guilty
Don’t feel anger or guilt that you didn’t notice the decline sooner. This applies to you whether you live out of town or nearby. It’s difficult to acknowledge decline in those we love! As you start your caregiving journey, an important thing to remember is don’t be hard on yourself — starting now.
And now that you are aware their decline, don’t ignore it. Delaying your research, education and response to it too long could lead to harder and more complex decisions later.
Don’t Try to “Fix Them” Right Away
My generation, the baby boomers, are especially well-known for jumping in and trying to fix things when they’re broken. Issues that come with aging are not subject to quick fixes in many cases. It’s wise to become educated about what you see as disturbing, but hold off on making changes immediately (unless it is life-threatening), or even talking with your aging parents about the issues, until you do the following.
Research Potential Reasons For the Changes
Think carefully and logically about what might have caused the decline in your Golden Oldies. Try not to jump to conclusions and think the worst. For example, if they are experiencing dementia or some type of memory loss, there can be many things causing it, and it does not mean they have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Possible causes of memory problems can include thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects and certain infections. Memory loss symptoms may improve when the underlying cause is treated.
Start your research by consulting their doctor(s) and/or other medical professionals. Call them and voice your concerns about what you see happening to your Golden Oldies and ak if they have insight into what could be the causes and what they recommend.
Don’t Go to Extremes
A Golden Oldie may be having some health or other aging issues at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they should immediately leave their long-established, comfortable home and move to a totally new environment. Perhaps they need in-home help with housekeeping and meal preparation only. Or they really don’t want to drive or pay their bills any longer. It may be easy to find family members to help in these areas or hire a non-medical companion as a first step. Don’t leap three steps ahead, when one baby step will do.
Have a Family Meeting
Even before you approach your Golden Oldies, have a talk with everyone concerned about their welfare. Use your judgment about whether to invite your aging parents to attend or not. It may be easier for participants to speak honestly and openly if your parents are not present at the initial meeting.
More Action Steps to Come
In an upcoming post, I will provide more ideas and resources for responding to any decline evident in your aging parents. In the meantime, start your research and education as outlined above. [Note: If you feel the decline in your aging parents could possibly be a serious health problem or life-threatening, contact the proper medical professional immediately. These are meant to be general guidelines and not to replace medical and/or legal advice.]
Please feel free as always to add your suggestions in the Comments section below.
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