Take Charge of Your Health - When Mom and Dad are Aging - Part 1 of 2
Old age is like everything else.
To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.
In this hiatus between Mother’s and Father’s Days, many of us take a moment to think about what our parents mean to us. For those of us who still have a parent to fuss over, we know how demanding or worrying this can be. 100 years ago, less than 7% of those in their 60s had a living parent. Today, that number is close to 50%. (And BTW, the oldest old, those over 85, are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population!)
As people live longer, many of us face the emotionally-charged and logistically-difficult issues of aging and illness in our families. Current statistics indicate the average rate of dementia is 9% in our 70s and jumps to 33% during our 80s. By our 90s, over 41% of us are formally diagnosed with dementia and only 0.5% show no cognitive decline. This data reinforces the importance of early conversations with our parents about their preferences for how they wish to live, and when it will be time to make a change. For instance, when will the time be right to get daily living assistance or what is our parents’ wish about moving to an assisted living center or preferring that caregivers come to their home. Having detailed discussions when our parents are of sound mind can make the emotional and logistical decisions to come that much easier.
These conversations also help mitigate the concerns of those who have a hard time accepting the changes in a parent’s mental or physical state and help ensure family members and health care providers are on the same page about treatment and care options. It is less confusing, both for the parent and their providers, when families speak with one voice. This unified voice helps protect our loved ones from the errors that can occur when mixed messages are given.
Although these conversations may be hard, these simple steps are part of what may be one of the most important gifts we ever give our parents:
- Having detailed conversations about a plan to ensure that our parents’ physical, emotional, social, spiritual and mental needs will be met as they age;
- Reaching family agreement;
- Sharing your elder’s wishes with their health care providers;
- When the time comes, respecting your parent’s wishes and the agreed upon plan.
Our next blog, S.P.E.A.K. U.P., will include specific ideas for talking with your loved ones about the future. For information on specific family conversations that may be helpful to you, visit the Health-E3 website.