Coping With Age-Related Changes

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“A person is always startled when he hears himself called old for the first time.”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

Coping with changes that affect an older person’s independence isn’t easy. An article I read recently in USA Weekend offered these tips to help with the difficult conversations you may need to have with your older parent, spouse, sibling, or other relative:

Giving up the car keys
•  Get an evaluation. Most states let anyone report an at-risk driver. Most also have an evaluation process to determine whether seniors are a danger to themselves or others. Often, people whose driving skills don’t pass muster will stop driving because they realize they’re no longer up to it.
•    Be direct. Telling a parent that he or she has to give up driving can be difficult, but important. It’s one thing if you kill yourself, but what if you kill somebody else? That thought may get the at-risk driver to stop.
•  Involve the doctor. If a physician reports an at-risk driver, the driver must, at minimum, take another road test.
•  Arrange alternatives. Set up transportation alternatives before a parent stops driving. Set up home delivery for groceries.

Moving to assisted living
•  Put yourself in the senior’s shoes. Frame the discussion from the elderly person’s point of view. For many, the pinnacle achievement in life was to buy a house, pay it off with the idea of living in it forever. It’s not just a house, it’s history and memories.
•  Try it out. Many major assisted-living companies offer respite visits. Seniors can stay a week or two to try it out, and then go home.
•  Don’t sell — yet. Wait to sell the house until the senior is comfortable in assisted living. If you need to sell right away, move the senior first. In this market most houses aren’t going to sell right away, and if assisted living doesn’t work out, you can always take the house off the market.
•  Be patient. Satisfaction rates in assisted living are in the 80 to 90 percent once the resident is settled in. Allow three to four months for seniors to accept the change.

Handling finances
•  Understand the senior’s point of view. Today’s seniors are the generation of savers. It’s hard to give control of their money to a younger person who doesn’t have the same view of saving and spending. Show that you understand your loved one’s point of view and offer reassurance that his or her wishes will be honored.
•  Be tactful with suggestions. Be sensitive to the senior’s tolerances. Automatic bill-paying and online banking may seem ideal to you, but some elderly people don’t like the idea of giving access to their bank account to anyone. Explain how you use these tools. Walk your loved one through the process.

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