Caring Intervention: How to Help an Elderly Parent

You see the signs that there might be trouble.

The new dent in the fender. An increasing supply of prescription drug bottles. Hearing the same story – for the third time today.

It’s difficult to know when to intervene with an elderly parent who values independence yet you suspect that he or she may need help.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that the following indicate intervention might be necessary:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Failure to take medication or over-dosing
  • Burns, bruises or injury marks
  • Deterioration of personal habits, such as infrequent bathing, not shaving, not wearing dentures
  • More frequent car accidents
  • General forgetfulness such as not paying bills, missing appointments, consistently forgetting names or meals, not knowing where one is, forgetting to turn off stove
  • Extreme suspiciousness, intense ungrounded fears about dire consequences

Talking with a parent about your concerns is not easy for either of you. The following are suggestions for conversations with your elderly parent:

  • Share your own feelings and reassure the parent that you are there for support and help
  • Help parent retain whatever control is possible in making decisions and respect his or her wishes when feasible
  • Encourage the smallest change possible at every step to allow time for adjustment
  • Educate yourself on legal, financial and medical matters that pertain to your parent
  • Respect your own needs, be honest with your parent about your time and energy limits

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