MILE­STONES OF AGING

Health & Nutrition - - FOCUS -

What to watch for Com­plaints that times is bur­den­some or life mean­ing­less; mar­i­tal dis­cord. What to do Help them find new ac­tiv­i­ties. Lo­cate spe­cial pro­grammes for se­niors in the com­mu­nity as well as al­ter­na­tive living ar­range­ments. If your par­ents seem de­pressed, urge them to seek pro­fes­sional help. Talk about ground rules. Your par­ents’ re­tire­ment is a good time for an hon­est dis­cus­sion about how your re­la­tion­ship is go­ing to change in the fu­ture. You need to say to your par­ents, ‘As time goes on, you may need help, and it’s bet­ter if we can agree on this now.’ This kind of help will be dif­fi­cult for par­ents to ac­cept later on un­less you’ve laid out some hon­est ground rules ahead of time. will, they need to. Other doc­u­ments that should be drawn up: a durable power of at­tor­ney (es­tab­lish­ing a fam­ily mem­ber or friend as the spokesper­son for the par­ent), med­i­cal di­rec­tives that place spe­cific lim­i­ta­tions on ag­gres­sive life-pro­long­ing ther­apy and a health care proxy. Have your par­ents keep im­por­tant pa­pers in a place to which one adult has ac­cess. Work on build­ing trust. Un­re­solved is­sues – es­pe­cially con­cern­ing money – must be ad­dressed while your par­ents are still lu­cid and in good health. Say to your par­ents: ‘If I am go­ing to help you in old age, you have to trust me with your money. If you can’t do that, I won’t be able to help you as I should. If your par­ents re­sist, con­sider talk­ing to a fam­ily ther­a­pist.

What to watch for Re­peated falls What to do Help make the house safer. Re­move throw rugs and ex­ten­sion cords and in­stall grab bars in the bath­room. If a step down from the kitchen into the living room is what’s trip­ping them up, put in a rail­ing. Go shoe shop­ping. Older peo­ple prone to fall­ing should wear ath­letic shoes de­signed for walk­ing. Make sure they fit well and have a low heel that doesn’t ex­tend be­yond the body of the shoe (this type of heel can cause trip­ping). Avoid shoes with soles that are very thick or ex­tend over the toe; they may stick to car­pets and cause falls. En­cour­age your par­ents to get rid of shoes with smooth leather soles or high heels and loose-fit­ting footwear. What to watch for Your par­ent seems con­fused or over­whelmed by tak­ing on the tasks needed to han­dle an ill­ness; no sin­gle doc­tor seems com­mit­ted to your par­ent. What to do Meet with your par­ent’s doc­tor. A com­mit­ted GP who knows how to com­mu­ni­cate with your fam­ily is vi­tal. If you don’t get the sense that the doc­tor is re­ally in­volved, it might be time to switch, to say a geri­a­tri­cian. Th­ese doc­tors have spe­cial train­ing in the needs of the el­derly and can of­ten pick up prob­lems that gen­eral physi­cians miss. As­sess how much you need to take charge of the sit­u­a­tion. For an older per­son, a se­ri­ous ill­ness is a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare. Some­body needs to man­age things like get­ting med­i­ca­tions and keep­ing track of them, fil­ing claims and ar­rang­ing med­i­cal vis­its. Read up on your par­ent’s ill­ness and its treat­ment. Get your par­ent’s con­sent to keep a file of med­i­cal doc­u­ments. Talk with your sib­lings. The ill­ness of a par­ent is of­ten a great op­por­tu­nity for sib­lings to start fight­ing – or to come to­gether. Fam­ily mem­bers who don’t live nearby should be in­cluded via con­fer­ence call. Dis­cuss death openly. As painful as it is, it’s time to start talk­ing with your par­ents about the con­di­tions un­der which they hope to die. Ask them: ‘When it’s time, how do you feel about dy­ing in the hos­pi­tal, ver­sus at home? How ag­gres­sive do you want your treat­ment to be?’ You should broach this sub­ject while your par­ents are still in rea­son­ably good shape.

What to watch for With­drawal, iso­la­tion, lone­li­ness What to do Share your grief. In­stead of turn­ing your grief in­ward, try to be present for your sur­viv­ing par­ent, so that cop­ing with the loss isn’t an iso­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ei­ther of you. Work out a sup­port sys­tem by way of in­ti­mate friends or fam­ily mem­bers nearby. Of­fer help with prac­ti­cal mat­ters. Make sure your par­ent has a com­fort­able han­dle on his or her fi­nan­cial mat­ters and living ar­range­ments. What to watch for Decline in per­sonal hy­giene or house-keep­ing; get­ting lost; per­son­al­ity changes What to do In­ves­ti­gate whether your par­ent is suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion.

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