The aging process is inevitable. Yet, many older adults and their families are caught off guard when a health crisis occurs and there are no care plans in place.
Elderly individuals, suddenly incapacitated, may have to move to long-term residential care with little say in the matter. And that can have long-lasting negative effects.
In fact, a new study published in the Gerontological Society of America’s Innovation in Aging journal found that “older old” people — age 90 and above — are rarely involved in decisions about moving due to the urgency of their health crises.
“What we found was that the decision is made by other family members or health care professionals, and relatives reported being traumatized by events leading up to the move,” said Dr. Morag Farquhar, University of East Anglia, Britain, who led the study. “While some older people were philosophical about their move and considered it part of the aging process, many thought the decision had been made for them. Some felt resentment and later regretted their move.”
“Thinking about such future situations earlier would give older people more involvement in decision-making, which could lead to better outcomes for all involved,” added Dr. Farquhar. “Relatives need much more support to discuss moving and housing options at timely junctures before a health crisis.”
Plan for the future with your aging parents
“It can be overwhelming to have a conversation with your aging parents about their futures, especially when you notice signs that they are not as independent as they once were,” says Rita Mabli, president/CEO of United Hebrew of New Rochelle, which provides an array of support services to seniors, including home care, assisted living, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, skilled nursing, and short-term rehabilitation.
So, where to begin?
“A good place to start is to know that you’re not alone,” she says. “Many of our residents’ families report how difficult it is to initiate conversations with their loved ones about the future. It’s not easy to think about how life will change.”
But, changes in living arrangements are to be expected. In fact, nearly 70 percent of today’s seniors age 65 and older require some type of long-term supportive health care services, according to the U.S. Department of Health.
Here are three ways families can help aging loved ones ensure their views and preferences are included in future care plans:
- Communicate with Mom and/or Dad: Discuss the range of supportive care services, and how, why, and when each might be implemented. In the near future, your parents may simply need help with grocery shopping, cooking, or managing their finances. At some point, they may need to consider alternate living solutions. Anticipating various scenarios makes decision-making more manageable when the time comes.
- Talk to the experts: Your family may benefit from speaking with a senior care advisor who will connect you to resources in the community. Eldercare experts can help families make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions, long before a crisis arises.
- Take tours: Visit senior care facilities before the need becomes dire. Then, if your parent has a health event that necessitates immediate care, selecting assisted living or long-term care in an urgent situation will be much less stressful.
Looking after aging parents can be challenging — but it doesn’t have to be, notes Mabli.
“Be proactive, seek advice, and learn about available community resources. That’s the best way to support a high quality of life for your loved ones.”