On October 14th and 21st, Hebrew SeniorLife gathered together geriatric thought-leaders, researchers and physicians to hold an importance discussion about the steps one should take to help aging parents as they make decisions regarding health and well-being. Those discussions culminated 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 which 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.
The trigger points with aging challenges that should be of immediate concern, and what we as doctors focus on, are functional changes in the ability to manage the activities of daily living alone. These changes impact your parent’s ability to remain independent. When these changes occur, there is an opportunity to revisit with your parents what is important to them and how this impacts their goals. At these points in time when there will likely be a need for more care and services, it will be very helpful for your parents to have plans of care in place, as well as to know their goals of care which may need to be revisited and modified.
Your role at these “decision points” is to help your parents in understanding and accepting the outcome they desire. It is important not to be paternalistic and stress your views in an overbearing and intrusive manner. Think of your role as that of a coach who wants to get your parents activated and engaged on the playing field while realizing they’re making the decision on where the ball ultimately goes.
There will also be trigger points in chronic conditions which will become decision points as well. As chronic conditions progress and it is clear that the disease is impacting your parent’s health and function, it will be important to discuss your parent’s values and wishes particularly when they cannot maintain their independence. It is important to understand their advance directive and priorities, including whether they want to live as long as possible or to function as well as possible – decisions that weigh both quantity and quality of life. This can also change as their health and life status changes over time.