My aging parents need more help ... now what?


Deborah Bakti worked as an executive in senior care for 11 years. Coincidentally during this time, three members of her family, her husband, her mother, and her father moved into different senior living accommodations. These life-changing experiences inspired her to leave her corporate career so she could focus on helping senior care homes, residents and their families to relate, appreciate and help each other as partners in care, navigating the overwhelming and complex senior living retirement and assisted living care options. 

Deborah is the author of two books, Now What? and Recipe for Empathy. Both of these informative resources help family members and team members to create more moments that matter for their loved ones as residents. If you would like to watch Deborah talk about this in our webinar, please click here.

The title of this webinar is “my aging parents need more help, what now?” and Deborah asked herself that very question on two occasions in her life. First with her father, who had Parkinson’s and dementia, and later in life with her mother who went into cognitive decline before suffering from dementia.

Notice the signs early
While trying to take the best care of her parents, Deborah was already a single parent herself after the passing of her husband. Before addressing the situation she initially failed to notice the signs of her mother’s physical and mental decline. “She wasn’t taking her medications as prescribed, not intentionally, her memory was starting to fail her. So it became a stressful time,” said Bakti. “It took over a year to convince her to assess her living options,” she added. So the sooner you identify the problem, the sooner you can find the right care and housing option for your loved one.

Deborah has three key concepts for you as you plan your approach to caring for your parent(s).

1) Take the lead and be the guide that your parents need

Deborah encourages family members to commit to the process of helping a parent transition. “I needed to get my head around that without stepping on toes or crossing boundaries. I could see what was coming for my mom,” she said. “When most people are transitioning their parents into a seniors’ home it’s usually because of a crisis. It could be a fall or an episode. You want to have a bit of runway before things get out of hand.”

Deborah advises family members to find their roles in order to best support the parent who is transitioning to retirement living. She encourages you to be honest with what you are capable of doing and how duties should be divided between siblings.

So what does being your parent’s guide look like? 

According to Bakti, this means making a list of any concerns you might have about your parent(s) and figuring out how to address these concerns. Examples of concerns would be your loved one living alone, being prone to a fall or an accident, not eating enough, etc. Ask yourself logical questions about your parent’s physical environment, physical abilities, mental capacity, and social connections and “face the facts of the current reality,” said Deborah.

If you think your parent needs to downsize or move to retirement, ask yourself what would be the best place for them to move into. “My mom was a great cook so I wanted her to be able to sit in a beautiful dining room, meet friends and enjoy delicious meals. And I wanted her to have a kitchenette,” said Bakti. Deborah suggests looking at what really matters. Find out what’s most important to you and your parents. Establish deal breakers for you and your parents and try to strike a fair balance and be willing to compromise. 

2) Challenge your beliefs

According to Deborah you should challenge your beliefs, assumptions, and emotions about retirement living. “Really get clear on things that may be holding you back from making a decision,” Bakti said. If you are unsure if your parent needs to go into retirement living, Deborah recommends asking yourself questions like: What am I worried about? What are the biggest concerns? And what are the biggest challenges for you? 

“I was most worried about getting a call in the middle of the night that my mother had a fall,” said Deborah. “I was worried about her safety and her level of forgetfulness and I was worried that she may not be open to looking at an alternative living arrangement if we got to the point where her cognitive ability was going to be a barrier.”

Ask yourself:

  • What do I know about retirement living?
  • What resources can I tap into to learn more?
  • What’s most important for me to understand?
  • How can I be the best guide for my parent(s) to help them make the best decision?

3) Manage your expectations

“Disappointment equals expectations minus reality,” said Bakti. She advises you to have realistic expectations about your loved one’s move to retirement living and to think about what a successful outcome would look like to you.  When her mother - who suffered from dementia - was moving from independent living into assisted living, Deborah’s successful outcome was fairly simple. “I wanted her to love the space she lived in, to have cleaning help and someone to have a quick chat with my mom, and to know that the care staff loved my mom. It was important for me that I could problem solve with the care staff and I also just wanted my mom to say ‘I really love living here’.”

These four categories often determine what success looks like for your loved one’s retirement living situation:

Financial: What are the financial requirements for now and later?
Operational: Different care support roles and departments in the retirement home.
Care support: What levels are needed now and down the road?
Community involvement: Is there outreach and what other kind of community support is there? 

Another additional resource when deciding on how best to care for your aging parents is Deborah’s book Now What? Within the book are 20 misconceptions that families often have about seniors’ care.  To watch the full webinar with Deborah please click here.

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