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Coping with Alzheimer’s: Working through a parent’s decreasing independence

You and Your Aging Parents

Ruth Kandel, MD's picture
aging parent
aging parent

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.

How do I work through my parent’s decreasing independence as a result of dementia?

1. Do not do this alone. Seek assistance from family members, friends and religious organizations. If the burden of care is too difficult, there are services and agencies that can offer professional assistance. You can find out more through your loved one’s primary care clinician, geriatric case manager or social worker.  The book “The 36 Hour Day” is also a very helpful guide to caring for a loved one with memory loss.

2. Watch out for safety issues such as managing medication, cooking and driving. Having a primary clinician who can work with you and your loved one is very helpful.

3. Take care of yourself. There is significant caregiver burnout when taking care of a loved one with dementia so it is especially important that you are mindful of your own mental and physical health.

4. Know the stages of the condition so you can anticipate what to expect and make plans for the future. 

5. It is helpful, if possible, to have a conversation with your loved one early on before the symptoms progress or even before they are visible so you know their wishes.

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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Comments (8)

My mother who is 70 years old

My mother who is 70 years old has vascular dementia. I need support badly because everyone has advice but it is not always the best advice. I sent her to PR temporarily so I can decide how am I going to help her when she comes back. I cry every so often because this is not my mother. I can't believe the things that come out of her mouth.

I to have a mother in a

I to have a mother in a nursing home and a disabled husband at home. My mother has been calling crying to come home. I am so sad I want to bring her home but I work full time sole provider is there anything I can talk to her about to help. She just turned 75 .

My heart goes out to you dear

My heart goes out to you dear heart, I have been down a similar road and I know it is not easy, but whatever you do always let your Mom know you Love her because sometimes they feel forgotten when they are in nursing home. Also, please be aware of how you feel and if you are too stressed or ill because sometimes it is easy for one to forget themselves when caring for others. I will keep Your Husband, You and Your Mom in my prayers. God Bless you dear one; take things one day and one step at a time.
Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team's picture

Hi Alicia,

Hi Alicia, I'm so sorry to hear your mother is struggling with her living situation. Changes in lifestyle are not easy for anyone, but can be particularly difficult for older adults. Be on the lookout for our You and Your Aging Parents ebook--which I'll email you directly. I hope it will be of some help and provide some comfort to you during this time. Erica Social Media Team at Hebrew SeniorLife

Very informative, very

Very informative, very helpful. Would this book be available at the library? Erica can you send me the same booka as well? The title is just the write phrase. Their isn't enough hours in the day to give them. There is always a demand for more.
Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team's picture

Hi DJ,

Hi DJ, Our "You and Your Aging Parents" book is an "ebook," which means it's available to download online as a free pdf. We offer the ebook various pages throughout our main website (most prominently on www.agingredefined.org) and here on the blog as a sidebar item. I'd be more than happy to send a copy directly to your personal email. Be on the look out for it! -Erica

my mother had progressive

my mother had progressive dementia, on 12/14/13 she sustained a fall and fractured her L wrist. At that time in the hospital, she was CT'd from head to toes, the physician found nothing else. I specifically asked the doctor if her head ct was clear and responded that it was. on 01/31/14 at night she did not look good, I had noticed that during the past two days she had a decrease in appetite. The next morning, we decided to take her to the ER. There the doctor Dx with bilateral subdural hematoma. She underwent surgery the following day and everything turned fine, better than what we expected. The only thing is that it feels like my mother is in another time . It feels to me like she is in her late stage of alzheimers and I just want to know how to help her recuperate. I just want to know that I am giving her the right help and that iam in time to help her. I just want to know that I am doing the right thing and within time to help her.
Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team's picture

Hi Carlos,

Hi Carlos, Thanks for reaching out to us. Because we cannot provide specific medical advice due to regulations instated by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), I suggest reaching out to your mother's physician or geriatric specialist to discuss her condition in depth and figure out how best you can support her at this stage in her disease. We did recently publish an Advanced Alzheimer's for Families on our main website, which may be helpful to read in addition to the specific advice you receive from health care providers. You can access our research guide at this link: http://www.hebrewseniorlife.org/workfiles/IFAR/DementiaGuideForFamilies.pdf. -Erica, Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team

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