How to Deal with Elderly Parents

How to Deal with Elderly Parents Blog Image: An adult child holding the hand of his sick mother.

One of the primary concerns on the minds of adult children everywhere is how to deal with elderly parents. With the life expectancy climbing higher every year – it’s currently 79 years old in the state of Maryland – more and more adult children are struggling to understand how to support and care for their elderly parents. “Supporting aging parents brings a host of challenges,” writes Kim Acosta, A Place for Mom. So, it can be incredibly beneficial to plan ahead. Being well-informed about estate and elder law planning is essential in today’s society, as more than 10,000 people turn 65 in the United States every single day. The failure to properly plan ahead can cause unneeded stress on your loved ones.

How to Deal with Elderly Parents

“For families, elder care is often one of those difficult topics,” says Jeannette Franks, retired professor of ethics, grief, and gerontology. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you better deal with aging parents.

When to Start the Conversation

As a general rule of thumb it is best to start looking into estate planning and elder law options when your parent has turned or is approaching 55 years of age, or has experienced a serious medical issue requiring care. Here are some other red flags that your aging parent may need some assistance.

Frequent injuries and unexplained bruisesChanges in mood or extreme mood swingsLooks disheveled or wearing tattered clothing
Late payments or bounced checksLittle to no energyLoss of interest in hobbies or other activities they once enjoyed
Forgetting to take medicationsIncreased confusion or noticeable memory lossBroken or damaged items around the home
Missing important appointmentsDepressionPoor personal hygiene
Cluttered or dirty home, especially if it is normally neat and tidyExtreme weight lossTrouble getting around

“If you notice any of these signs, write down your concerns. Talk with your siblings and other relatives, or perhaps plan an elder care family meeting,” advises Acosta.

Elder Care Family Meeting

An elder care family meeting is a great way to bring everyone together to discuss how to deal with elderly parents. “Bringing the family and support network together for a meeting to discuss a loved one’s changing situation and available options is a crucial step in elder care planning,” says Franks.

  • The Purpose: “Caring for a frail older person is never easy,” says Franks. “Holding a meeting for everyone involved almost always will improve the situation — as long as the meeting is well planned, well attended, and conducted appropriately.” Often, families are spread across long distances. Some family members may be unaware of what is really going on at home. An elder care family meeting is a great way to get everyone together (physically or via a virtual meeting) to share information and begin the conversation. What is going on? Who is currently caring for the aging parent? What are the next steps?
  • Who to Invite: Who are those loved ones most invested in your aging parent’s future? Your siblings? Your parent’s siblings? Close friends and neighbors? Current caregivers? Social workers? Spiritual advisors? Compile a comprehensive list of everyone you could invite and then narrow the list down to your top 10 people. More than 10 and the conversation can be difficult to manage. And don’t forget to include your aging parent in the conversation. They absolutely have a say in their future.
  • The Conversation: Create an agenda and be sure to share it with everyone in advance. And be prepared for some wildly different ideas about what’s important or what’s the appropriate next step to take. Be ready for an open, honest, and sometimes difficult conversation.  “Assure everyone that there’s no perfect answer and that no solution will please everyone,” says Franks. “Compromise, compromise, compromise.” It can help to have a neutral party facilitate the conversation, as well as assigning a designated note taker.
  • Follow Up: After the meeting, be sure to send the meeting notes to everyone involved, even those who were unable to attend. Follow through on the plan of action discussed at the meeting but be prepared and flexible for the situation to change. While your aging parent may be fine at home now, that could change down the road. Be ready to keep the discussion going.

How to Deal with Elderly Parents When They Refuse Help

When it comes to elder care struggles, “communication issues rank high,” according to Acosta. In fact, a study at Penn State University found that 77 percent of adult children believe their parents are stubborn when it comes to taking advice or asking for help with daily tasks. Here are a few simple tips to help you better connect with your eldery parents.

  • Include Them in Planning: “Including your aging loved one in future plans may help motivate them to receive needed care,” says Acosta. You are more likely to get pushback if you try to make decisions for your parents without their input.
  • Understand Their Motivations: Approach the conversation with care and understanding. Aging is never an easy process for anyone. So, put yourself in your parents’ shoes and try to understand where they are coming from. What are some things they may be fearing? “Identifying the root causes of your parents’ behavior can help you identify the best way to make positive changes,” says Acosta.
  • Sympathize and Proceed with Respect: “Realizing that your parents’ autonomy is important to them can be beneficial as well,” says Suzanne Modigliani, a social worker from Massachusetts. It’s important that you treat your parents like adults, even when it may feel as if you and your parents have switched roles at times. “Avoid infantilizing your parents,” says Dr. Robert Kane, former Director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota, and author of The Good Caregiver. “Dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous.”
  • Accept the Situation: While it may be frustrating, you have to accept that you cannot force your parents to do anything. “[Your parents] are adults with the right to make decisions — even poor ones,” says Modigliani. So, pick and choose your battles. Your parents will be more likely to listen to your advice if you don’t bombard them with everything all at once. Decide what issues are most important and prioritize.
  • Honest Communication: Explain to your parents how the current situation is affecting you. “If your parents aren’t willing to change their behavior for themselves, maybe they will for a loved one,” says Acosta. “Communicate your worries to your parent and explain how your anxieties will be tempered if he or she follows your advice.”

Estate Planning – What to Look For in an Elder Care Lawyer

Elder law is great for anyone who needs help figuring out how to deal with elderly parents. Typical services include:

Estate Planning DocumentsAsset Protection & PreservationAdvance Medical Directive (to help with health care decisions)
Long-Term PlanningGuardianshipMedicaid & Medical Assistance
Retirement PlanningLast Will & TestamentTrusts
Assisted Living & Nursing Home CarePower of Attorney (to address financial control issues)Probate

It is important to understand that not every elder care lawyer specializes in every aspect of elder law. So, when seeking legal advice, look for an attorney with experience in the particular subject area you need, whether it be asset protection, long term care, elder abuse or neglect, or any other subcategory of elder law. It is also important to look for an elder care attorney that is caring and compassionate. Elder law can be a sensitive topic and, in some situations, families are dealing with very emotional issues. Your attorney should be able to not only address your legal needs, but also give you peace of mind. 

You can trust PathFinder Law Group. PathFinder is an estate planning law firm based in Towson, Maryland specializing in Elder Law Planning. Our team provides legal guidance that comes from the heart and our solutions are tailored to fit your individual needs. Our team can assist with all aspects of elder law and estate planning, including: Estate Planning Documents, Long-Term Planning, Retirement Planning, Assisted Living & Nursing Home Care, Asset Protection & Preservation, Guardianship, Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney (to address financial control issues), Advance Medical Directive (to help with health care decisions), Medicaid & Medical Assistance, Trusts, and Probate.

To contact PathFinder Law Group about your Elder Law Planning needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529  or email staff@pathfinderlawgroup.com. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.

Sources

  1. Acosta, Kim. “18 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help.” A Place for Mom, 22 Mar. 2020, www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/parents-need-help. 
  2. Acosta, Kim. “What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help.” A Place for Mom, 3 July 2021, www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/parents-wont-listen.

About Adam Zimmerman

Adam Zimmerman is known for his unique ability to put people at ease. Within minutes of meeting Adam, his clients realize he is not the stereotypical attorney and is genuinely invested in helping them through their life situations. He is committed to empowering his clients to be decision makers in the process, so they are knowledgeable about the course of action they decide over their affairs.