Assessing Your Aging Parent’s Needs

Assessing Your Aging Parent’s Needs

by Marcy Morgenbesser, LICSW

In my role as Clinical Director for CJFS, I frequently get calls from adult children concerned about their aging parents’ living situations. Often, a son or daughter believes that, in their current residence, Mom and/or Dad are unsafe or that they need more help. Although these family members sense that their parents’ situation needs to be addressed, they may not have any idea what kind of services or living situations are available and which is the best fit. They also may be having trouble figuring out how to approach the subject with their parents or siblings.  

I often hear something like: 

 “I think it’s time for Mom and Dad to move into some kind of facility, but my parents say they are just fine in the home where I grew up.” Or: “My sister in California thinks Mom needs to give up driving. But I know that just means I will have to drive her everywhere.” 

There is no easy answer or even right or wrong choices for these situations. Rather, a range of factors shape decisions, and no two families will approach them in the exact same way. However, here are a few things to consider when thinking about next steps: 

-What does my parent want and why? Understanding the desires and goals of the person who is aging is paramount. Discussing this first can often help shape next steps, keeping the goals in the forefront rather than the needed changes. 

-How are they managing activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, preparing meals, paying bills, and doing laundry? If they are able to do these independently, it is usually best to encourage them to continue to do so. If not, they may need more care at home or in an assisted living facility. 

-How often do they see other people? Socialization and connection to others is important not only to mental health and wellbeing, but also to overall physical health. Finding a more communal living situation with planned activities or group meals may reduce loneliness and isolation. 

-In their current living situation, what help do they already have, and what close family members live in the home or nearby? If just a little assistance or companionship is needed, unskilled in-home care may be the right choice or family may be able to fill the gaps. 

-Are there worries about mobility and balance? If getting around the home is a challenge, a move to a smaller or single-level home may be an answer. Falling is one of the greatest safety risks for older adults. Falls often lead to hospitalizations in the short term and decreased mobility and independence in the long term. 

-What level of support are family members willing/able to provide themselves? While being a caregiver at any level can be an honor and privilege, it can also be stressful and challenging and is a big responsibility. 

-Are finances an issue? Figuring out costs for the short and long term is complicated because usually we don’t know how much care will be needed or for how long. 

CJFS Social Workers are trained on the resources and options that are available—and on how to approach these topics with other family members. It is never too early to begin to have conversations about aging. Too often at CJFS we have to help in a crisis—after a fall or hospitalization. It is always best to make decisions proactively rather than reactively. It is also important to remember that everyone involved may not be on the same page or want the same things. CJFS offers expertise and guidance in bringing families together and facilitating difficult conversations. 

The licensed clinical social workers of CJFS are experts in providing Care Management for older adults and support services for their families. Have questions? Contact Marcy Morgenbesser, LICSW, marcy@cjfsbham.org or 205.278.7101.