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Signs your aging parent needs help

by Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH

"You might think you know what’s going on but surprisingly, our starting assumptions can be wrong or incomplete. That’s why it’s important, before you do anything else, to try to gather information that will help you confirm that your worries are justified. I recommend checking on these particular things:

  • Signs of problems with memory and thinking

  • Signs of problems with life tasks and safety

  • What other family members and key people in your parent’s life are noticing

  • Any “bright red flags” that indicate you probably should step in sooner rather than later"

Here’s an overview of the steps:

  1. Collect the facts on the situation, by checking for specific signs an aging parent needs help or is unsafe, and by respectfully gathering information from others.

  2. Get your parent’s perspective, so you can understand how they see the situation and what’s important to them, before you make any more attempts to get them to make changes. (Don’t even think about getting them to understand, agree, or accept what’s going on during these initial conversations.)

  3. Find out what an ideal medical and eldercare intervention looks like, to guide plans if there really are signs of memory problems, safety issues, or declines in independence.

  4. Learn some legal fundamentals about signs that mental “incompetence” or “incapacity” might be an issue, and about legal documents, such as powers of attorney, that can better enable you to assist your aging parent.

  5. Create an actionable plan that addresses what’s most important, based on what you’ve learned about your parent’s situation and priorities so far. Every family is different, but usually what’s most important might involve:

    1. Working on getting a medical evaluation, and hopefully a diagnosis

    2. Addressing the most important safety and care issues

    3. Connecting with your parent and persuading them to accept at least some changes

6. Implement your plan. Be prepared to make several attempts, because that’s usually what it takes."


Call  (778) 300-1845 if you need a caregiver
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