Well­ness: The Doc­tor is In - Do Your Par­ents Need Help?

Howler Magazine - - Contents - By Dr. Her­bert Wein­man

As chil­dren, we look to our par­ents for guid­ance and sup­port, and as we grow up, we be­come more in­de­pen­dent. Through­out our ma­tur­ing adult and se­nior years, we con­tinue to dis­play the fierce in­de­pen­dence that char­ac­ter­izes the older gen­er­a­tion. Yet, we may not con­sider how our par­ents are func­tion­ing as they get older. At what point do par­ents need our help?

Unopened bills, bounced checks and bouts of for­get­ful­ness are among the first tip-offs that an el­derly per­son has be­come less men­tally alert. Changes in a par­ent's men­tal abil­ity, en­ergy lev­els and mo­bil­ity of­ten oc­cur so grad­u­ally that chil­dren re­main un­aware. When one spouse cov­ers up for the other, prob­lems can go un­de­tected for years.

If you sus­pect that your par­ents are los­ing con­trol of their lives, you might start pay­ing closer at­ten­tion. Signs of trou­ble of­ten in­clude moldy food in the re­frig­er­a­tor, un­filled pre­scrip­tions tucked away in a drawer, or an over­drawn bank ac­count. If your par­ents ap­pear less able to per­form sim­ple ac­tiv­i­ties such as walk­ing, dress­ing and eat­ing, don't as­sume the symp­toms are part of nor­mal ag­ing. There are many cor­rectable causes of ap­par­ent fal­ter­ing in the aged.

It's also very im­por­tant to en­list your par­ents' help, so they know you're not try­ing to take away their in­de­pen­dence or take con­trol of their lives.

The fol­low­ing ques­tions can be a ba­sis for dis­cus­sion with your par­ents, as­sur­ing them you will act in their best in­ter­ests should they be­come in­ca­pac­i­tated:

• Where would you like to live if you be­come ill or dis­abled?

How do you take care of rou­tine home main­te­nance?

Do you have trou­ble climb­ing stairs?

Can you com­fort­ably meet your ex­penses? Do you have ad­e­quate health in­surance? Se­ri­ous ill­ness could wipe out sav­ings if par­ents don't have sup­ple­men­tal cov­er­age.

Who will han­dle your af­fairs if you be­come in­ca­pac­i­tated? Rais­ing the idea that par­ents may some­day be phys­i­cally or men­tally un­fit to make their own de­ci­sions can be dis­turb­ing. What is worse is the time, ex­pense and process of pe­ti­tion­ing a court to de­clare them in­com­pe­tent if they have not as­signed power of at­tor­ney to a trusted loved one.

Where do you keep im­por­tant doc­u­ments and who is your at­tor­ney? Try­ing to un­cover this in­for­ma­tion dur­ing an emer­gency can be a night­mare.

It's not easy fac­ing the fact that our par­ents get older and the like­li­hood that they may be­come some­what in­ca­pac­i­tated at some point. Pre­par­ing in ad­vance can min­i­mize the fam­ily's stress dur­ing these tran­si­tions.

Signs of trou­ble of­ten in­clude moldy food in the re­frig­er­a­tor, un­filled pre­scrip­tions tucked away in a drawer, or an over­drawn bank ac­count.

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