Helping Your Elderly Parent Focus – Just In Time For The Holidays

One of the most difficult things in dealing with an elderly parent, especially one with some dementia, is getting them to focus on their future and make good decisions. This is where you can be a big help.

You may find this a bit strange, but helping a parent to focus begins with getting yourself to focus!

Here’s an example. A daughter living in NJ decided that her Mom, who lived in Georgia, needed assisted living. Of course, she talked with Mom about it and Mom gave the usual response. Never.

That threw her for a loop, and so she decided to start visiting independent living and assisted living facilities to see if there was one she thought Mom might agree to go to. And so she started the grand tour of facilities, with no real strategy in mind.

She visited facilities all over NJ, then one of her siblings got involved and started visiting facilities in NY. Then the family decided maybe Mom should stay in Georgia, so they started visiting facilities there. I have no idea how many facilities they visited or spoke with, but I suspect the grand total was fifteen to twenty.

And what were the results? Nothing – just a lot of wasted time. They weren’t any closer to getting Mom out of her home. Oh, did I mention that they tried Home Care for Mom, and Mom called the police?

So they called me. We discussed Mom and her emotional and dementia problems. While I’m not a healthcare worker, I’ve had enough experience to recognize that Mom had many of the issues of most aging parents living at home. She was lonely, was having trouble remembering, wasn’t eating well, couldn’t leave the house, was depending on neighbors to shop for her, and was so miserable that she was taking it out on the family, blaming them for everything. She was the perfect candidate for assisted living and certainly not a candidate for independent living. More than likely she needed some dementia care, but perhaps not full time.

I told the family they needed to focus.

So we started talking about several specific facilities that I have worked with in the past that know how to deal with situations just like this one. We narrowed down the geographic focus to NJ and then agreed on an assisted living community known for its high level of care, willingness to let its residents day-trip for dementia care, but live in regular assisted living, and its great food. The facility worked with an elder law attorney who helped the family with the paperwork for financial help.

They went to Georgia and brought Mom back to NJ for a ‘vacation’, staying with them and not talking about assisted living, then took her to the facility for lunch, explaining that it was a resort catering to seniors (that’s not stretching the truth – many of them are just that). There she had lunch with some residents and made an immediate friend.

By focusing on Mom’s needs, and not whether the facility had a Koi pond or walking path, for example, we found just the right place and when Mom went for her visit, she felt right at home. The food was great, the people were nice, they had a card group, and in short, they had just what she loved. Mom could visualize herself there.

This is a great time of year to place your parent in assisted living. Halloween is coming up, followed by Thanksgiving, the Jewish Holidays, Christmas, and New Year’s. There are tons of activities and entertainment going on, and the residents love it. Families and grandkids spend hours with them, and maybe even the family dog comes along. They especially enjoy helping to decorate and making party favors. They quickly develop friendships that can last for years.    

I’ll help you get focused and teach you how to overcome your parent’s objections. It’s not as hard as you think.


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