Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Aging Parent? 5 Common Fears You May Have & How to Address Those Fears

Age is a state of mind, or more accurately, a state of health.  Healthy seniors are forever young. Take my tennis partner in Tucson, for example, she is 90 years old and I, in my early 60’s, have trouble keeping up with her! However, once chronic illness sets in, aging can take place very quickly. Many of us, in our 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, are caring for parents in their 80’s, 90’s and beyond. While it is never too early to talk to your parents about their care wishes, once your elderly parent loses the ability to perform one or more of the activities of daily living, it is time to step in and address your worst fears. 

Here are five common fears and some ways to address them

5. Driving safe 

Afraid your elderly parent is a danger to themselves and the public when they are on the road? You are not alone. It is important to bring the topic up early with your parents, as part of an ongoing discussion about aging and independence. Let them know you support their wishes to live independently as long as they can do it safely.  Suggest a complete physical to rule out health related issues related to safe driving. Remember in Ontario seniors have to re-qualify for their driver’s license once they reach 80 years old. 

4. Meal time 

Are your parents eating well?  How do you ensure your parent is eating healthy, nutritious meals and encourage better food choices? Next time you are visiting, take a moment to go through the fridge and cupboards to ensure your parent's house is stocked with healthy food choices. It is not uncommon for the elderly to neglect their diet and to ignore the best before date on foods.  Next time you visit arrive with fresh groceries and a prepared meal.  Talk to your parent about Meals on Wheels or another meal plan. Facing resistance?  Contact CCAC, they will work with your elderly parent and the family physician to arrange an assessment of your parent’s ability to manage meals, including their ability to shop for groceries.

3. Health 

When is it time to step in? How do I know if my parent is taking proper care of their health and hygiene, including taking medications appropriately? Count the pills in the bottles, now check the dosage and date the prescription was filled.  How many pills are remaining?  If you see changes in grooming, cleanliness or clothing, or mistakes in taking their meds, perhaps your parent is having difficulty completing the daily tasks of simple living. If any of these elements of daily life are becoming a problem for your parent then it is likely time to step in and get some help. If you have concerns, contact CCAC for an assessment of your parent’s ability to live on their own. If supervised care is required, CCAC will help you find the right resources.

2. Finances 

Do your parents have the financial resources to last their lifetime? Do they have a plan that includes covering the cost of long-term care and end of life costs? Your best ally in this situation is a reliable financial advisor.  If your parents are already working with a financial advisor, ask if you can join them for their next meeting. If you are involved in the process, you will be able to ask some well-placed questions.

1. Fear of Addiction 

It may seem odd, but the number one fear of family members for a loved one who is near the end of life is the fear of addiction (to pain relieving medications). Fear of addiction among the dying, and their loved ones, often comes from being in a state of denial. Denial can be a useful tool to protect ourselves from emotional pain but if your parent is suffering it is time to face up to the facts and ensure they receive the care they need to make their last days (weeks, months) meaningful and as pain free as possible. 

For more information on how to care for your aging parent please check out my new book Financial Care For Your Aging Parent.

It is important to keep the lines of communication open and don't be afraid to raise concerns and seek out advice if you are worried about something. Your aging or elderly parent can live independently and with grace with a little help from you and a solid plan in place. 

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