I hear this often from adult children trying to help their aging parents with what happens next in their parents’ lives. This article from nextavenue (nextavenue article) outlines four basic steps that could make a difference as you try to navigate these sometimes treacherous waters. As many of us know, stepping in to assist your parents or other loved ones can be very difficult and frustrating. There may be crucial financial steps to be taken, or even more concerning, crucial safety steps for your parents’ health and well-being. No one likes to be told what to do. For this reason, perhaps it’s wise to consider the following first:
1. Could there be an underlying cognitive impairment that is making your parent(s) more resistant than usual? If the answer is yes, there could be a number of things (physical and/or mental) that may be causing the impairment or making it worse – some of which are reversible. Medications, diet, undiagnosed infection or other condition, some vitamin deficiencies, or, even more significant, an undiagnosed or mis-diagnosed mental disorder or disease (dementia, for example).
Don’t assume your parent(s) has/have just stopped being reasonable. Get help assessing the physical condition and mental capacity of your parent(s), including the chances of recovering or improving the condition. Many GP’s are experienced with such diagnosis; there are geriatric specialists and neuropsychiatrists, just to name a few.
Take note that if capacity is diminished permanently, you may need to exercise your pre-executed legal documentation (if applicable) and/or document the impairment in writing from the physician/specialist.
2. Be a good listener! The article notes that often a simple validation of your parent(s) emotion – whatever it is and however reasonable/unreasonable – is meaningful. You may not only calm the situation a bit, you may also glean important information about the underlying cause of their resistance to your suggestions.
The article mentions geriatric care-managers as potential third-parties that may be able to step in and facilitate important conversations. I would also suggest considering elder law mediation practitioners. Both are specially trained, among other types of professionals, to help families deal with these situations.
3. Are there reasonable “trade-offs” to weigh and consider? “Safety and longevity versus independence and autonomy,” the article mentions…….. Guess which ones you prefer to worry about and guess which ones your parent(s) worry about? I’ll bet they aren’t seen the same, or at least not measured in the same way. As important as safety is and as meaningful as it may be to have your parent(s) around for years to come, it may not jive with your parent(s) choices about quality of the life they have remaining. Be careful not to fall victim to your singular perspective on things.
I found the “positive risk-taking” approach a very helpful guide to thinking through assessment of a current situation. And, Dr. Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, is a “must read” for anyone dealing with their own or their loved one’s mortality.
4. What we often forget is to distinguish your needs from your parents’ needs. Probably one of the hardest to think about, but very important if you’re trying to help your parents live their lives in a way that gives them as much choice and control as they can handle/afford.
As the article points out, even with great help and support from professionals and family, this is an incredibly difficult and frustrating situation, and it requires much patience and dignity. Be sure to gather good advice from caregivers, geriatric managers, medical specialists, and legal consultants as you wade into the “deep end.” If you understand what your choices are and can articulate your goals and the goals of your parent(s), it can make the experience of working toward your mutual goals just a bit easier.This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com ALL READERS: This blog is not, nor shall it be deemed to be, legal advice or counsel. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. It is designed to encourage thoughtful consideration of important legal issues with the expectation that readers will seek professional advice from a licensed attorney. Contact Bridget-Michaele Reischl at: DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC 6 West 5th Street, Suite 800-D Saint Paul, MN 55102 (651)-321-3058 firstname.lastname@example.org