Monday July 22nd, 2024 1:07PM

How to have the tough conversation with an aging parent

Not everything or everyone is the same when you visit loved ones over the holiday season and if you see changes in your aging parents’ behavior, appearance or household, it should be cause for concern.
That is the message from Kimbrough Law Life Care Coordinator Robin Lacrimosa, who spoke on WDUN’s Mornings on Maine Street about how to handle aging family members. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the link above.
Lacrimosa said the holidays are a time when many adult children realize something may not be right with their elderly parents.
“A lot of family members don't live close to their older relatives or they're talking to them on the phone,” Lacrimosa said. “And so of course, the older adult is saying ‘Everything's fine, we're great. You know, we did this, we did that.’ But then sometimes things start to become clear whether it's unusual withdrawals from their bank account, bills not getting paid… If you go and visit at the holidays and you notice that the house is not kept up the way it used to be, it's not as clean, there may be expired food in the refrigerator…”
Lacrimosa said some other signs to watch out for are a disheveled appearance and a lack of self-care.
“That's probably some of the more common things and you just really [need] to be paying attention,” Lacrimosa said. “Sometimes it could be something really simple as a medical issue. But sometimes it's a sign that there's a bigger issue at hand that's going to need to be addressed.”
It may be easier to notice the signs of an aging family member, but it can be even harder to start that conversation with them.
“A lot of times, unfortunately, the older adults don't want to hear it for a variety of reasons,” Lacrimosa said. “A lot of times because they may recognize that they are slipping, and they know that that is going to be the loss of their independence. And it's a very frightening thing.”
Another complicated part of the conversation may also stem from family dynamics. 
“Often there are older adults who look at their children who maybe are parents themselves, but to them, they're still the child,” Lacrimosa said. “And they're like ‘you don't tell me what to do.’ So it is a really tricky time to have these conversations.”
Lacrimosa said life care coordinators can help bring an unbiased perspective to both a concerned adult child and an adamant older adult. She used one extreme case as an example, where a mother with likely unaddressed and underlying mental health issues was unable to cope after the loss of her husband.
“Then it really became clear how sick she had gotten,” Lacrimosa said. “And there was a lot of behavior issues. The police were being called out, she was wandering the streets, banging on neighbors doors, looking for her children who were now grown men. That was kind of an extreme case, but we ultimately had to have her brought into an emergency room to have a full medical assessment, and then she had to have a psychiatric assessment. And it was determined that she was just not capable of living alone at all.”
Lacrimona worked with the family through the entire process and said the woman is now receiving regular meals, meds and care at a community home. It also helped improve her once-strained relationship with one of her sons.
“Her son sent me a picture not too long ago,” Lacrimona said. “So before when she wasn't medicated when she was struggling, she was very paranoid and was very confrontational. They just did not have a good relationship. She would throw him out of her house and he was just trying to help her. Right now that she's medicated, she has just blossomed in this community and they just have the best visit. She plays the piano for him. And he's able to [have] the son and mother relationship again, rather than the caregiver trying to get his mother out of the house.”
Kimbrough Law will hold a free webinar on Jan. 12 that will have more information on how to approach this delicate topic. You can register by visiting the Kimbrough Law website, Facebook or by calling the office at 706-850-6910. If you cannot attend the webinar, you can still register to receive a file of the recording.
“Our attorney Haley is going to be on,” Lacrimona said. “She's going to be talking about the legal documents that you need [and the] things that you should have in place to do financial and legal planning. And then Mary Jo and myself are the care coordinators. So then we're going to talk about what we touched on a little bit here – when you notice things are wrong. How do you have that conversation? What care options are available out there? There's so many things that you can do that you can layer into place. I think families always think their family member gets a diagnosis and the next step is the nursing home. And that is not the case at all.”
  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: Family, aging, Kimbrough Law, Mornings on Maine Street, elderly
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