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Making decisions for a parent is difficult

03 June 2009
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - June 2009

Your parent has received a diagnosis of dementia. After years of concern this should not come as any great surprise. So where do you go from here?

Let’s take a step back. The time to have the “conversation” with your parents about what they would want if they were not able to care for themselves is when they are healthy and before they become cognitively impaired. Let’s also assume that you have a mandate in the event of incapacity.

With the “conversation” and the mandate, you are equipped to make the right care decisions.

A diagnosis does not mean immediate change. It is a medical confirmation of what you have probably guessed. It’s possible to stay in our own homes as long as there is no safety risk.

Questions to ask before making drastic changes
• Has your parent ever wandered away from home or got lost?
• Is the person eating properly; has there been any noticeable change in weight?
• Is the house in reasonable order, or is laundry piling up and garbage accumulating?
• Does your parent smoke; have there been any accidents; is there evidence of cigarette burns?
• Are showers being taken regularly?
• Do you feel that your parent could make proper judgment calls if asked for money?
• If there were an emergency would your parent be able to call 911 and explain?
• Are they willing to accept help at home?
• Are there any physical issues; are the stairs in the home a safety risk?

At some point it may become clear that the parent can no longer live alone, even with home care help, and a move begins to seem like the only choice. This is one of the hardest decisions a child will be faced with.

What distinguishes Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) from other illnesses is that logical and intelligent discussions with the parent are no longer possible.

Ideally, all siblings agree on the move and where it will be. Family support is so important. Support groups can also be extremely helpful for adult children as well as for spouses. Children with little support from family or friends can find themselves in a very lonely place. We should all look around our circle of family and friends to see if we should offer a helping hand to anyone who may be in this situation.

An adult child in denial mode who is unable to make decisions as needed can compromise a parent’s safety.

How nice it would be for children if their healthy parents sold that three-story home before they became unable to manage on their own. This applies not only to the cognitively impaired, but also to those who have physical challenges.

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Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775