You know some of the common signs that someone is aging: Forgetting tasks or appointments. Moving slowly. Having trouble hearing or seeing clearly.
However, there are other health problems that aren’t quite as well known. Often, these problems go undiagnosed because they cause symptoms that are similar to normal signs of aging, such as confusion or forgetfulness. And if they go undiagnosed, they go untreated.
When your parent is getting older, and you’ve taken on a “parenting the parent” role, here are 4 health problems you need to look out for.
Managing Your Parent’s Health
If you suspect that your parent has health problems, it’s important to address them — and just like they always taught you, how you say something is just as important as what you say.
At any age, it can be natural to get defensive if someone confronts you to tell you they think you have a health problem. This is especially true in aging parents. As they get older and begin relying on their children, who they once cared for themselves, they may feel as if they are losing some control. They could feel embarrassed, sad, or anxious about the prospect of aging and developing age-related medical problems.
When talking to your parent about a suspected medical condition, keep the following in mind:
- Avoid sounding accusatory. Your parent may be more willing to listen to your concerns and follow up with them if they don’t feel like they’re being personally attacked.
- Make sure your parent knows that no matter what, you will be there for them. Reassure them that you can offer emotional support, as well as help them find ways to manage their condition.
- You don’t need to do it alone. Physicians, registered nurses, therapists, social workers, online support groups — there are people there to support both you and your parent as you work through diagnosis and health management.
Medical Decision Making
As your parent ages, it’s also important to think about how you can help them manage their care and make medical decisions if they are not able to do so themselves.
Talk to your parent about having access to their medical records. At Stormont Vail Health, this can be done through the MyChart patient portal or in person, with their physician. With access to their records, you will be able to view their medical history so that you have a better picture of what’s happening with their health.
Also, discuss becoming their power of attorney. This is an agreement that allows you to make decisions on their behalf.
There are a few types of power of attorney contracts, and each type is only in effect in certain circumstances. A medical power of attorney (also known as durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions or health care proxy) only goes into effect when specific conditions occur.
For example, it may go into effect if your parent becomes mentally incapacitated and is unable to make decisions because of worsening dementia, or if they are in a coma after an accident. Until then, your parent will still make their own healthcare decisions.
You can choose whether the power of attorney ends if your parent becomes capable of making decisions again, or if your power of attorney will last through your parent’s lifetime.