• July 27, 2016 /  Difficult Conversations

    Facing the Difficult Subject of Living Choices Many families want to avoid talking about end-of-life matters. This is understandable, as it’s a weighty subject with a variety of emotions attached to it. Parents feel resistant to the idea that they are closer to facing this. Children and other relatives are saddened and worried by what the future holds for their loved one. However, it’s a conversation that can’t be sidestepped. Facing it head on with a frank attitude will help your family come to terms with it sooner.

    One of the first and most important items to address is living choices. You want to have clear plans before there’s a crisis. Consider whether your parent needs minimal assistance, or more intense care for issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Naturally, most older ones would still like to stay in their homes. But if they struggle with day-to-day activities and household duties, they might wonder how that will be possible. It’s important to assess the reality.

    Some questions that you will want to discuss with your parents would be, “What challenges do you face? Is it difficult to drive, walk up and down stairs, or access the bathroom? What’s the plan in an emergency?” It’s completely possible that they can continue to live at home. Mom or Dad might require part-time or full-time care to manage this. Sometimes simple changes or adaptations to the home can also make it feasible.

    For those who remain in their home, there’s an abundance of resources that will help. Options include home health aides, housekeeping, meal delivery service, and transportation services. Retirement communities offer many of these services while enabling residents to enjoy independent living.

    For some, living alone is no longer possible. Consider whether or not moving in with you is the right choice. It all depends on the circumstances. You might look into senior housing. Cost plays a primary role, so this needs to be factored in. You might not realize how much your parents value your input. Show care and empathy. Ask questions and genuinely listen to their answers. They absolutely need to be involved in the decision-making process if they’re going to be happy with the end result. Don’t rush this decision! Take your time and think wisely.

    Writing down a list of their wants and needs is helpful. What features would make them more comfortable? What’s essential to their care? This is valuable even if they continue to live at home or choose to live with family members. You’ll need to consider their financial and work situations, and the adjustments that might need to be made in those areas. Bringing on a part-time aide can maintain balance.

    This is a monumental time in both parent’s and children’s lives. Even with a well laid-out plan, nothing’s going to go perfectly. At times, emotions will run high. But through communication, empathy, and understanding, your family can make it through.

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  • July 12, 2016 /  Basics, Resources

    This is a continuing series using information from the booklet written by the National Institute on Aging working with the National Institutes of Health called: Talking with Your Doctor.Involving Your Family, and Additional Resources (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 05-3452 August 2005. Reprinted April 2010.)

    How Others Can Help

    Many people find it beneficial to involve some of their friends or family in their medical care. The booklet points out that you may feel more confident if someone else is with you. If you choose to have someone come along to the doctor, they can aid you in remembering exactly what you wanted to discuss. They can also remember details that the doctor told you.

    Your caretakers can also bring up issues of their own. It’s easy for them to forget that caring for themselves is one of the most important things they can do. When they’re refreshed, you benefit as well. When they have a chance to speak with your doctor, they can express concerns and ask questions. They might wonder what to expect in the future, where they can find encouragement, or what practical ways they can care for themselves.

    After the appointment, you can discuss what the doctor said together. “They can remind you of the important points and help you come up with questions to ask next time,” says the booklet.

    Even if they don’t go to your actual appointment, they can still be a sounding board. The booklet says, “They can help you practice what you want to say to the doctor before the visit. […] And they can help you come up with questions to ask next time.” Many find it a challenge to express their thoughts to their doctors, so going over it with someone beforehand is very useful.

    It’s important, however, to remember that they’re only there to be of assistance. The visit is still between you and your doctor. You don’t want to allow them to take over. You could choose to talk with your doctor alone, and bring your friend or family member in later on in the visit.  It’s wise to discuss boundaries and expectations in advance.

    Additional Resources

    Your friends and family aren’t the only way to get support. There’s a multitude of information available to you. The booklet recommends: “the Internet, home medical guides, books and articles available at libraries, national organizations or associations, other institutes within the National Institutes of Health, and self-help groups.” Staying informed and educated is essential to a healthy, working relationship with your doctor.

    You can look into government programs that give aid for health care, prescriptions, food and utilities. Approaching a counselor for advice goes a long way towards maintaining your emotional and mental health. Maintain your friendships with those facing the challenges of aging as well.

    Taking an active role in your health care will improve your sense of control, even during tumultuous times. It’s easy to feel too helpless when your health deteriorates, but it’s possible to get involved and be productive. By inviting friends or family to help out as well, you build a support system that will assist you in the hard times.

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