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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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Helping Aging Parents Plan

You and Your Aging Parents

Robert Schreiber, M.D.'s picture
Robert Schreiber
Robert Schreiber

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.

To understand the challenges of aging parents, you must begin by walking in their shoes and realizing that the walk is a marathon - not a sprint. This means being present when you’re with them and talking with them about the journey they are on.  The adult child can better understand the changes that have been occurring to their parents by asking them to describe what is important to them as they age and understanding their values and goals. Based on their answers, it is important to acknowledge what they are still able to do, what they can do with assistance from others, and what these changes mean to them in context of their values and goals.

Recognize that the changes they face often mean losing the ability to function in certain areas. There is a lot of information to be ascertained from the physical, psychological and adaptive changes your parents may make to cope. How your parents deal with the loss of certain abilities will be determined, in part, by their resiliency – whether they have the physical and mental reserves, emotional fortitude and spiritual health to respond to and withstand tough times. Having their own coping mechanisms, as well as support from others, can help them move through these significant changes and allow for acceptance.

If you observe your parent’s medical situation changing and impacting their ability to maintain their independence and function, use that as an opening to talk about how they are dealing with these changes and to ask them how that makes them feel. This requires listening skills, active engagement and carving out time to have this type of conversation. It is important to reflect on what they tell you and then talk about it.

You can start by asking them for their parental wisdom in a personal situation you are facing.  As the dialogue continues you can get the conversation to shift and begin talking about their dreams and goals and what’s really important to them to still try to accomplish in their life.  If you can determine with them the barriers that are preventing them from achieving those goals, you can talk with them about putting together a plan to help them attain those goals in their remaining years. Understand those goals will change over time based on what they’re capable of doing. 

Remember, this is an ongoing process of learning and sharing. By sharing your own challenges with your parents, you begin to open up productive communication and allow you to better help aging parents.  This allows for better understanding of what your parents want as they age and helps you appreciate the changes you will encounter as you navigate the road ahead.

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

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Medical Director of Outpatient Primary Care Practice, Community-Based Programs, Innovation and Development

Robert Schreiber, M.D., provides oversight of the Hebrew SeniorLife Medical Group, which offers primary and specialty care services to older adults. He is also involved in promoting new initiatives, including new models of care at HSL's long-term care facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and senior housing sites. Prior to joining HSL, Dr. Schreiber served as chairman of geriatrics at Lahey Clinic and held leadership positions at several Boston area long-term care facilities. He is board certified...

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Comments (6)

My parents are losing their

My parents are losing their mobility......my mom is 80, my step-father is 87, my dad is 84.......all they talk about is their frail health, and living at the Dr offices......I would like to encourage them but sometimes find it difficult to do......maybe I can receive tips from this blog.....

I am taking care of my 72

I am taking care of my 72 year old Father and he has gone over the top with his faith and pushing others away that are not living like he thinks they should...all the way to not allowing them to our get togethers (at his house) for Christmas.

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