Communicating with your elderly parents

Talking with our elderly parents about their living situations and the possible need for change is not always easy. Who wants to discuss moving mom or dad to an assisted living or nursing home facility? A successful conversation depends to an extent upon the relationship we have with the parent, as well as on the parent’s mental, emotional and physical condition. While many people put off serious conversations to avoid conflict or awkwardness, both parent and adult child may lose an opportunity for closeness, understanding, access to information that may affect the decision and optimum peace of mind.

To the extent possible, talk with your elderly parents gently and honestly about their wishes, their abilities and their options. Far more often than not, these conversations are helpful and put the adult child in a better position to make decisions later when the parent may not be able to do so. The following are suggestions for conversations with your elderly parent:

  • Share your own feelings and reassure the parent that you will support them and can be depended upon to help them solve their problems.
  • Help the parent to retain whatever control is possible in making his or her own decisions. Respect and try to honor their wishes wherever feasible.
  • Encourage the smallest change possible at each step, so that the parent is more able to adjust to the change.
  • Educate yourself on legal, financial and medical matters that pertain to your parent as background for your conversations, including current knowledge on the aging process.
  • Respect your own needs and be honest with your parents about your time and energy limits.

If this kind of conversation seems impossible or the situation and relationship with the elderly parent become overwhelming, professional counseling may be very helpful.

When a Lifestyle Change May Be Necessary

Physicians and geriatric social workers warn that there are a number of danger signs that indicate an elderly person needs extra help or a change in living arrangement. Any marked change in personality or behavior should be heeded. However, no change in lifestyle should be made without discussions with the elderly person, other family members and doctors or other health professionals.

Danger Signals

  • Sudden weight loss could be an indication that the elderly person is simply not eating or not preparing foods.
  • Failure to take medication or over-dosing may indicate confusion, forgetfulness or a misunderstanding of the doctor’s instructions.
  • Burns or injury marks may indicate physical problems involving general weakness, forgetfulness or a possible misuse of alcohol.
  • Deterioration of personal habits such as infrequent bathing and shampooing, not shaving or not wearing dentures could be the result of either mental or physical problems.
  • Increased car accidents can indicate slowed reflexes, poor vision, physical weakness or general inability to handle a vehicle.
  • General forgetfulness such as not paying bills, missing appointments, or consistently forgetting name, address, phone number and meal times could be a signal.
  • Extreme suspicion could indicate a thought disorder. Your parents thinking that their neighbors, friends, family, doctor and lawyer are all conspiring against them would be an example. Intense ungrounded fears about dire consequences may be a danger signal.
  • A series of small fires could be caused by dozing off, forgetting to turn off the stove or appliances or carelessness with matches. They may indicate blackouts or dizzy spells.
  • Bizarre behavior of any kind could be a warning sign. This behavior could be dressing in heavy gloves and overcoat in 90 degree weather or going outside without shoes when it’s snowing. Watch for uncharacteristic actions or speech.
  • Disorientation of a consistent nature may indicate a need for help. Examples include not knowing who one is, where one is, who the family is or talking to people who are not there.

PMHP Law, LLC represents clients throughout Georgia and the Southeastern United States. To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at our firm, call us at (404) 618 0082 or visit us online at

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Atlanta, Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Fulton, Whitfield, Douglas, Polk, Chatham and all of Northwest Georgia, North Georgia, Central Georgia and South Georgia, as well as much of the Southeastern United States.