Saturday, June 5, 2010

Eldercare Tip: Your Aging Parent Won't Budge? Try Plan B

My friend Terri wrestled with a problem common to Boomers with aging parents. "My parents are accidents waiting to happen."

Indeed. Her dad, a 92-year-old cardiac patient who popped nitro as if it were candy, knew the hospital emergency room personnel by name. To add to his stress, he cared for Terri's mom, who had dementia. Their home had several flights of stairs.

"I brought up the subject of retirement and assisted living facilities, time and time again," she said. But her dad's answer was always: No way, no how.

Are you dealing with aging parents who need care but won't admit the problem? Instead of wringing her hands, Terri wisely came up with Plan B. See if her steps might work for you.

1. Think through the legal issues. Terri was able to convince her parents to execute a durable power of attorney, a legal document that gave one of their children authority to make financial and health care decisions for them, if they became incapable. Her parents also executed advance directives, spelling out their wishes for end-of-life issues. Even the most stubborn parent will usually understand the importance of making these decisions ahead of time. Offer to go to an attorney with them.

2. Research options. Even if your parents won't budge now, that doesn't prevent you from visiting possible retirement or assisted living communities or checking into home care, if you think that would work. Terri did her homework and told her parents about her research "for the future," or "in case you might need care sometime." She invited her parents to come along, too.

3. Avoid power struggles. Don't hammer your point into the ground.
And when you do bring up your concerns periodically, use "I-messages," such as "I'm worried that you're not eating properly" or "Those stairs are so steep; I would feel badly if you fell and hurt yourself." Discuss interim steps such as installing a pendant-type emergency response device or a sit-down shower stall.

4. Implement your plan. Work together with your siblings so everyone is on board. And then sit tight, knowing you've done your best. Later if an emergency arises, or if your parents change their minds, you'll be ready.

Have you developed a "Plan B" you'd like to share?

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