Mom, I think we need to talk….

Times have changed and we now live longer than most of us ever dreamed. The average life span for American women is around 86 years and for men is about 84 years. With that brings the inevitable issues of the decline in our health. When mothers only lived to age 70 they never faced many issues that the moms of the future will face at age 80 or 90. All too often I hear older women say, “mom never had that problem.”  Well mom probably didn’t… because she didn’t live long enough to have that problem.

Addressing the issues timely

Due to this phenomenon, many children are faced with a parent that has challenges facing the realities of growing older. Often what we see is a parent that will not address an issue timely, thereby making the problem worse. Most chronic diseases require timely response for yielding the highest quality of life and sometimes like in the case of cancer ,life itself.

Visiting your loved one enough to see issues

In solving for this challenge, it is imperative for children of elderly parents to make frequent visits to their parent for a duration of several days. Older folks are very good at acting and can cover their problems when you just visit for a few hours. When you notice an issue, try to engage in constructive dialogue, not blaming or inflaming rhetoric. If you can personalize the issue by referring to yourself or someone else they know, it can help open the door to discussion. Suggest going with them to the doctor to help them ask the difficult questions.  Help mom prepare a list of questions for the doctor and make sure the doctor answers all of them satisfactorily.  Often there are articles on line that will help both of you prepare for the visit.  Sources such as the Alzheimer’s Assn of Oregon, Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon, or hospital specialty clinics like ones offered at Oregon Health Sciences University.  There are also many help lines you can call for information.

Understanding why they won’t talk 

Understanding the reasons behind mom not wanting to discuss or recognize a given issue can help you assist them. Perhaps mom thinks she is going to be forced to leave her home if she has a health issue. In-home care can help alleviate the number of changes for an older parent by keeping her in her home, be it via family or professional caregivers. Often, fear of recognizing health issues is related to money; parents fear they will run out of savings before they die. Again, try to make assurances that you will be there for them and that appropriate arrangements can be made.

The take away, open and honest communications

Ignoring problems will not make them go away; the sooner you can have the discussions, the better as it will normally leave you with more options.

Dave Nelson

Care of our aging parents is the focus of Dave Nelson. Dave is the owner and director of Griswold Home Care Registry in Portland, Oregon, an in-home care company. He faces questions every day from family members about their aging parents and how they can help them age gracefully.

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