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Published January 19th, 2022
Did you visit older parents during the holidays?
Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, is a Licensed Family Therapist and Certified Care Manager. She has been practicing professional care management since 1984. Linda founded Eldercare Services, a full-service care management and home care company in 1989. Eldercare Services is now a division of Home Care Assistance and continues to provide Bay Area families with care management, advocacy, counseling, support groups and education.

Many people visited Mom and Dad this holiday season: a first visit in almost two years. What you observed might have been concerning and now you're back home and wonder "What support is appropriate and how do I find it for them?"
Some might have noticed during the pandemic via phone or video calls: (A) the repeating of stories, (B) denial of any needs, (C) what you think might be false reporting of important information. The Alzheimer's Association says that over the pandemic there has been a 16% increase in the number of persons diagnosed.
What should families do if they walk into what is often described as a "hornets' nest?" I hope you held off on giving advice too soon. This is something that, in order to be successful, needs to be addressed more slowly. Overreacting leads to resistance. If you respond with "you should" or are overly parental, telling your parent what to do, you seldom get cooperation.
The pandemic has been hard on solo seniors: those living alone and those who were in assisted living these past two years. These situations increased both depression and dementia.
Knowing how to have a conversation with your parents about the "What if's of a longer life" can be productive if you (1) didn't do it on the day of a celebration and (2) you have prepared them ahead of time for the conversation.
Many older adults welcome these discussions because, once they have discussed all the "What if's" scenarios of growing older and discussed their values and wants with family, it can relieve some unexpressed stress or worry. Then you can become the resource collector and, in the end, it will give you a sense of doing what is right when you are called to assist in making medical decisions or in choosing a retirement community.
If you saw memory decline, personal care that is neglected, unpaid bills, and more clutter, you might be looking at a safety issue as well. This is when you will need to take action sooner to ensure that your parents are not in any jeopardy. That will require legal documents like the Advance Health Care Directives as well as some local professional guidance.
Families often think that a senior living community is the only answer and sometimes it can be the best solution. However, over 80% of seniors want to stay in their own homes till the end of life. It is important to first try the local support systems that support aging in place - such as the www.LamorindaVillage.org. And, if your parents are at a distance, already resistant and you are worried about safety, I think consulting with a Professional Geriatric Care Manager would be a great help in designing a plan with all the local options for in-home or retirement living. You can find that professional at www.AgingLifeCare.org. Look for a professional with a license and certifications.
I teach a series of four free Zoom classes for those concerned about someone with a dementia. They are usually on the second Friday at 11 a.m., but the February class will be on the 18th. You can sign up on my website www.LindaFodriniJohnson.com. On Zoom, I also co-lead a support group for those caring for someone with a dementia. This is twice a month through LOPC in Lafayette. Send me an email if you would like to join. It is the first and third Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. My email is LindaFJ620@outlook.com
The big message is that you are not alone and having professional guidance and support can make this life journey less stressful for everyone in the family.

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