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Commentary: Start Conversation Now about Companion Care

WHEN PARENTS NEED CARE

A person’s inability to care for him or herself can grow gradually over time, making it difficult for the adult children to realize. As your parents’ degree of independence declines over time, so too will conditions in their immediate environment. Watch for changes in their physical condition as well as the upkeep of their home. If you live at a distance, try to identify a family member or close friend who can keep an eye on them and provide feedback to you on their condition.

The following behaviors may serve as warning signs that something is not right and your parents may need help:

  • Forgetfulnesss about basic household matters like paying bills, repairs and maintenance;

  • A lack of attention to caring for themselves, including personal hygiene issues;

  • Unsafe driving;

  • Inability to manage personal affairs and finances;

  • Inadequate nutrition and hydration;

  • Non-compliance with medication regimes.

BRINGING UP THE TOPIC

Some general principals to consider when approaching the subject of home care with your parents:

  • Most parents value their independence, and so may avoid the topic, hide the truth, and deny that there is a need for assistance. Broaching the topic can require a significant degree of compassion and patience on your part.

  • Don’t be surprised if you meet steadfast resistance. Plan on several conversations about the topic before there is agreement about what is to be done.

  • It takes time and empathy for you and your parents to adjust to the role reversal of you having to care for them. If the adjustment is overwhelming, try involving a trusted third party to intervene such as a pastor, social worker, family attorney, doctor, or home care provider.

A RANGE OF OPTIONS

Home care can involve a wide range of services, and many times can start with informal assistance in the home provided by the adult children, other family members, a friend or neighbor. Once the level of care needed exceeds what the adult children can provide, it is time to consult a professional, such as a licensed home care agency.

Learn more about community and professional options for free at: Senior Citizens Law Day: “Alexandria for a Lifetime!” Saturday, Oct. 13, 8:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., at First Baptist Church, 2932 King Street, Alexandria. Please register online at www.SeniorServicesAlex.org, or by calling 703-836-4414, Ext. 10.

Presented by the Alexandria Bar Association and Senior Services of Alexandria, the event is underwritten by: Alexandria Bar Foundation; Fountains at Washington House; Bernstein Global Wealth Management; Goodwin House; KOVA Contractor, Life & Estate Planning Law Center, PLLC; Law Office of Deborah G. Matthews; Mt. Vernon Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; Morgan Stanley Smith Barney; Parks & Schaffer, PLLC; Redmon, Peyton & Braswell, LLP; Rich Rosenthal Manitta Dzubin & Kroger; Signature Estate & Investment Advisors, LLC; Sunrise Senior Living of Alexandria; Synergy Home Care; TD Bank; and Woodbine Rehabilitation and Health Care.