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Making Decisions for Elderly Parents

You and Your Aging Parents

Emily Saltz, LICSW, CMC's picture
Making decisions for elderly parents
Making decisions for elderly parents

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.

When does decision-making transition from my loved one to me?

Observe how your parents are functioning cognitively and emotionally in their current situation. Some simple questions to ask include:

  • Are they becoming increasingly isolated and no longer enjoying or participating in their favorite activities?
  • Are they forgetting to pay bills or paying them multiple times?
  • Are they not able to manage the various medications that have been prescribed? 
  • Are you worried about your parent’s ability to drive and/or has he or she been involved in accidents recently?
  • Have you traveled in a car with your parents and witnessed they are not as aware as they should be when driving?
  • Was your mother a meticulous housekeeper, but now her apartment looks cluttered and dusty?
  • Has either of your parents lost weight recently?

If your answers to the above questions suggest there is cognitive decline or depression, then seek out a cognitive assessment from a physician or neurologist. This assessment is used to determine if there is a progressive cognitive decline and what the cause of that decline might be. If the assessment determines they lack the capacity to understand fully the decisions they are making and the consequences of those decisions, the geriatric care manager can help craft a proactive approach to helping your parents. 

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



Founder & Director, Elder Resources

Emily B. Saltz is the founder and Director of Elder Resources, a private practice providing a full range of geriatric care management services for elderly clients and their families since 1992. The Elder Resources team includes four geriatric care managers serving the greater Boston area.

Emily received her Masters degree in Social Work from Boston University and is...

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Comments (2)

My friend (83 yrs old),

My friend (83 yrs old), though she can see, is legally blind, uses a walker to get around, is not in excellent health, and lives with her daughter and son-in-law. I try hard to get her out to lunch once a week, but that is the only variation from her humdrum life, and she has begun to become a bit depressed. She has lost her enthusiasm for crocheting, and without much vision, can't read, etc. I was searching your site for ideas that I might use to give her a little greater sense of purpose, ways to keep depression at bay. Unfortunately, your site seems geared more to identifying problems, rather than viable solutions to depression issues. Exercise and helping others are two tremendous ways to stay positive, but exercise is almost completely out of the question for her, and it's hard to imagine how she could help others, when she has to have help, helping herself! I think this is the case with many Seniors today. Family conversation amounts to "What's for dinner?" or "What's on TV?", followed primarily by conversational silence. Seniors can no longer drive, and in many rural or even suburban areas, there are no buses, which they probably couldn't manage anyway. Friends no longer visit them, because friends are often in the same boat. They are isolated even at gatherings because they can't keep up -- can't hear what's being said, can't remember what they meant to say, don't get the jokes, and everyone talks much too fast. What can well-meaning friends do to help them keep up their spirits, and convince them that they continue to be worthwhile individuals? Any ideas?
Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team's picture

Hi Judy,

Hi Judy, Thank you for sharing your friend's experiences with us. You bring up excellent concerns. We know that feelings of isolation and depression are common among seniors and a topic we plan to continue expanding upon in future blogs. Would a move to an assisted living or independent living community be a possible option for your friend? Many older adults experience a disputation of isolation and depression through the friendships forged by these community living opportunities, which often offer classes, clubs and activities to keep older adults engaged. If your friend does not see a move in her immediate future, Parks and Rec departments offer a wide array of classes for adults that she could sign up for based on interest. Think of ways to increase your friend's feelings of independence. It sounds like her health may preclude pet ownership, but what if you assisted her in starting a garden she could care for or setting up a greenhouse in her home? I hope these suggestions help set the wheels in motion to improve your friend's happiness and quality of life. Thank you again for sharing this relevant concern on our blog. - Erica, Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team

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