7 tips to help aging parents get the care they need

It’s not surprising that during holidays like Thanksgiving when far flung families get together, are the times when you notice that aging relatives are getting more fragile. Maybe they’ve had a small stroke or other health problem that makes it dangerous for them to continue to drive a car. They might also be having trouble cooking and cleaning for themselves.

Adult children are often uncomfortable with bringing up these things, but also want to help their parents make the transition into a safe environment where they have access to health care and/or assistance with daily needs. The providers at MVNA have helped many families through this period. Caren Gaytko, Senior Vice President of Clinical Services, explains the necessity of approaching parents about care, “While the subject is difficult to discuss, adult children can play a pivotal role through early planning. Planning now ensures coordinated care in whatever setting they prefer to be in, whether in the home or in a care facility. In fact, early planning helps parents maintain control of their life, something that is important to many of us as we age. The potential for surprises is mitigated. The potential for quality care that allows parents to age with dignity is increased. Early planning is an invaluable gift to parents that show how much you love them.”

Making decisions about how your parent should be cared for isn’t easy. Here are some ideas to help you and your parent maintain a healthy relationship throughout the process.

Talk early. The sooner you open the conversation about care, the better. Your first interaction on the topic doesn’t have to be long or deeply involved. Start by asking your parent if he or she would be open to assistance, but don’t push the issue.

Make connections with others who can help. Whether from a spouse, family member, doctor or old friend, another person’s opinion may neutralize the situation and encourage your parent to consider the option of care. Visit someone you know who is already receiving care or has relocated to an assisted living community. A firsthand opinion may help your parent feel more comfortable about making a decision.

Research the options. The more you know about care options available in-home and through assisted living or nursing homes, the better you will be able to address your loved one’s concerns. Find out about the costs and the levels of care provided. Talk through the pros and cons of each option with your parent. For example, moving to an assisted living community would relieve the pressure of tending a home and yard, as well as bring new opportunities for social interaction. Hiring an in-home assistant would provide companionship and allow your parent to stay in their home.

Talk through worries and fears. Try to be sensitive to your parent’s feelings. If he or she is worried about moving to an unfamiliar place, make an effort to visit the community and meet the staff and residents. If your parent has fears about what will happen to their home or belongings, be sure to talk through those issues together.

Let your parent decide. Your concerns about your parent’s health and safety while living independently may be perfectly valid, but your parent may not see eye to eye with you on this. Provide gentle hints and remind your parent about options for care when the timing is right. As long as he or she is able, your parent should make the final decision.

Don’t give up. Maintain your commitment to finding a safe and suitable situation for your parent without forcing it. Allow time for this emotional journey, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (or to offer help).

Stay involved. With your parent’s consent, you can join the discussion with your parent’s care team at Hennepin County Medical Center. MVNA is a part of Hennepin Health System and is here to support you and help families navigate next steps for care.

Learn more about the MVNA’s home care program by calling 612-617-4600 or visit mvna.org.

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