The Senior Transition Guide Aims to Make Senior Care Conversations Easier, More Productive for Parents and Adult Children

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Executive director from online guide for senior living and care emphasizes that education and genuine concern can help adult children of seniors recommend assisted living for aging parents. The company also gives timely advice on how to recognize troubling signs in senior parents and how to bridge this difficult topic

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Education and genuine concern are the tools necessary to bridge the divide for parents that refuse to believe they need help.

The Senior Transition Guide, out of Phoenix, Arizona, is a website and mobile application that helps seniors determine the level of care they need from a senior living community sponsored by LeadingAge-AZ. But according to Jon Scott Williams, executive director for the Senior Transition Guide, adult children helping their parents decide on senior care face more potential issues than the search for assisted living accommodations.

A NextAvenue.org article from Sept. 18, 2014, posed the question "When Should You Be the 'Bad Guy' with Your Parents?", which was aimed at adult children of senior citizens. The piece detailed five situations where adult children may have to step in and take over the decision-making process for their parents, even if it means a loss of independence for those seniors.

Norbert “Bert” Rahl, director of mental health services at the Eldercare Services Institute, part of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, outlined the five "crisis situations" where adult children need to be the "bad guy" with aging parents. These include times where parents can no longer drive safely on their own, live in a house unsuited for aging in place, are not taking their medications properly, make poor financial decisions as the result of cognitive decline, and/or display signs of depression.

Williams explains that it can be difficult for adult children to confront their parents when these circumstances arise. The role reversal can be difficult for both parties to accept, and some adult children will even deny that changes are occurring in their parents; this is especially true in cases where the change may be a negative, such as frequent falls or declining health.

"When Mom or Dad forget to clean the dryer vent, get lost coming home from shopping, put dirty dishes back on the shelf, forget to fill prescriptions, or forget to take their medicine properly, we want to believe they just made a mistake," says Williams. "Sometimes it is, but for many these are symptoms or signs that are negative."

In order to bring up the idea of assisted living, Williams recommends keeping an eye on Mom and Dad's behavior first. Adult children should look for changes in their parents' routines and appearance, says Williams, such as neglected housekeeping or evidence of falling (bruises, skin tears, etc.), and they should keep a record of examples to explain to their parents why they have concerns.

Williams also recommends having a one-on-one conversation first, perhaps with the most "influential" child. A group conversation should only happen later if parents don't respond well to the suggestion of moving.

Above all, says Williams, parents should have "the most voice and/or power in the decision of where they will be moving," if a transition to senior living is the goal of the conversation.

It can also be difficult, Williams says, to know whether or not parents will cooperate or resist the change. Many factors contribute to this decision-making process, including family dynamics, personalities, level of education, the presence of physical or mental illnesses and disabilities, and the approach to the conversation.

"Education and genuine concern are the tools necessary to bridge the divide for parents that refuse to believe they need help," says Williams.

Additionally, adult children may also have to make an effort to reach out to their parents, especially if they've been avoiding the conversation for a long time.

But this can be easier said than done. "Accepting that your parents may no longer be Superman and Wonder Woman and seeing them as they are is hard on your emotions and relationship," says Williams.

And while some adult children and friends of those parents may write off their poor decisions as simple mistakes, Williams cautions against this thought process. It's important to take any signs of decline seriously, he says.

"Adult children need to become educated about the aging process, ask questions and find out what the new normal is," says Williams. "Otherwise unless there is a crisis staring you in the face, nothing much gets done."

Williams recommends looking for resources, such as the Senior Transition Guide, in order to best determine how to handle an aging parent's decline. "Without being proactive," he warns, "tragic results often occur needlessly."

About the Senior Transition Guide

The Senior Transition Guide is a not-for-profit organization that aims to connect people around the country with the information, tools and resources needed to know their options for senior care. They help families consider their options for this important transition period. To learn more, visit seniorlivinghomeguide.org.

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Jon Scott Williams