October 19th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
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Successful aging: from a parent’s perspective – Part 2

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

This post is Part II of Successful Aging: From a Parent’s Perspective

In the previous blog post, we discussed the difficulties some parents have when discussing the issues related to aging, from future wishes to health care directives. If the time has arrived for serious conversations, putting a plan in place can help reduce any friction or distance between elders and their adult children.

Elders and aging issues: create a plan

When creating a plan to talk about aging issues, there are three steps to remember, including the following:

1. Consult with a third party

If you have a specific medical condition that could impact your quality of life, it makes sense to consult with a health care professional. You may also want to consult with a social worker regarding community services, and an elder law attorney or financial planner to discuss financial scenarios. In some cases, a psychologist may be able to provide support as you deal with your feelings about the various aspects of aging.

2. Write down your specific wishes

Writing down your wishes is important. Whether in the form of a health care directive or living will, getting your desires together in a formal document can help make your wishes clear and set the stage for dealing with future aging issues. When my mother was in her 70’s, I recall sitting down with her–before her memory and hearing loss set in–to create a list of medical situations that could arise the in the future. This was not an easy process, but my mother was quite comfortable expressing her desires to me. At no point did I try to change her mind. After reviewing the information and making some revisions, my mother drafted a typed copy, had it notarized and distributed a copy to each of her children.

When she started to experience additional health issues, I gave a copy to her doctor as well. During the final month of her life, it was suggested doctors consider putting Mom on a feeding tube. But, there was no discussion this time. Mom’s answer was in her written directives and that answer was “no.” She was clear and her wishes were honored.

3. Create a team that supports your choices

Putting together a team of close supporters is invaluable. In my case, I have gathered a group of individuals who can offer a personal and informed approach to a variety of potential problems. For example, I can talk with my sister-in-law who I formed a deep bond with as both of our mothers’ experienced memory problems. I trust her to offer support to my son if I have a serious health crisis. Then, there is my close friend of thirty years who advocates for holistic options and works as a nurse. Having these types of people in your life who understand your wishes and can serve as sounding boards is important.

By taking the time to prepare a health care directive, a living will or other formal document that relates your caregiving, health and aging wishes, you may be able to open the door for future conversations with your adult children.

Make sure to review and update your documentation, so it is a true reflection of your current desires.

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One Response to “Successful aging: from a parent’s perspective – Part 2”

  1. Linda Collins

    Having a third party is a good suggestion
    Sometimes the emotions behind dealing with aging parents blocks the ability to reason
    Third parties that don’t carry the emotional piece can really bring you back to reality

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