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ReAge, a combination of “redefine” and “aging,” means to question everything about the aging process. Through ReAging, we are challenging conventions in order to create and implement new standard-of-care approaches that will positively impact the lives of older adults.

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Dementia Conversation Tips

You and Your Aging Parents

Ruth Kandel, MD's picture
Talking to loved ones about dementia
Talking to loved ones about dementia

In the fall of 2012, Hebrew SeniorLife gathered together geriatric thought-leaders, researchers and physicians for our inaugural "You and Your Aging Parents" program, an important discussion about the steps one should take to help aging parents as they make decisions regarding health and well-being. Overwhelmingly positive response indicates the need for this information and Hebrew SeniorLife continues to offer this program. Check our events listing for upcoming events. 

In addition, we published expert advice from the first program in an ebook, You and Your Aging Parents,” which Hebrew SeniorLife is offering as a free downloadable pdf. The discussion also inspired our “You and Your Aging Parents” blog series, a series that includes this blog post and covers the various issues and concerns you may encounter as you and your parent/s continue on the journey of aging.

What should you do if you believe dementia exists?

First, find out more about dementia and its symptoms. Talk with your extended family to get their impressions and see if they share your concerns. If your loved one is displaying symptoms, accompany them to their next appointment with their primary care clinician. You can also request a consultation with someone who specializes in cognitive disorders. 

When it comes time to have the difficult conversation acknowledging these changes in your parents, consider having other family members present for the conversation. Be mindful not to have more than a few people present because a large group may frighten your loved one. Start the conversation by addressing why you are concerned and stress that your loved one is still the remarkable person they always were, independent of any cognitive impairment.

It may help to explain that the medical community knows much more about dementia today and that treatment options do exist. Also, discuss some of the positive interventions available, such as physical exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding social isolation and participating in mentally stimulating activities. This recent article from the Alzheimer’s Society - Talking to a Loved One About Dementia - provides helpful tips.

To download your copy of our “You and Your Aging Parent” ebook, visit our website, www.agingredefined.org.

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Geriatrician, Hebrew SeniorLife, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Ruth Kandel obtained her bachelor's degree from State University of New York, Buffalo and her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed a residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital and a geriatrics fellowship at Bedford Veteran's Administration Hospital/Boston University Medical Center. She provides inpatient primary care and is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Her academic interests include Alzheimer's disease, memory disorders, and...

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