in-home consultation with senior couple in-home consultation with senior couple

How To Make Tough Care Decisions for Elderly Loved Ones

Nobody likes being told what to do. Elderly individuals even less so. Seniors spend a lifetime making decisions on their own, so naturally when someone wants to do the deciding for them, they bristle. Understanding that is key for adult children and other family members if the time comes to intercede in an elderly loved one’s care. Some seniors never require that level of intervention. But many do, which is why rather than stumbling through difficult conversations and scenarios without a plan, it’s best to know in advance some do’s, don’ts and options concerning elder care.

Food for Thought When Weighing Elder Care Issues

Looking ahead to what may or may not transpire with an elderly parent, for example, is fraught with uncertainty and emotion. But planning for possible eventualities can help ease the stress when major life changes do occur, such as mental or physical decline, medical emergencies, and end-of-life care.

Those already or potentially charged with an older person’s long-term care should first assess the situation. How is the parent or grandparent, uncle or aunt, sibling or spouse doing? Family members should observe and document any sudden changes in their older loved one that may be cause for concern. There may or may not be something happening that requires immediate medical or elder care support. Rather than assuming, it’s best to check with others involved in the person’s life to see what they report. Maybe you are misreading or missing things. Then it’s important to visit with the senior, preferably in person, to try and gauge firsthand if there are any red flag behavioral, health, household upkeep, safety or other matters that demand attention.

Above all, don’t interrogate your parent, much less prescribe “help” that isn’t asked for. Instead, listen closely to what Mom or Dad has to say. A next step may be speaking with their primary care physician or with a geriatric/elder care specialist to determine if there’s cause for taking more action.

What the older person you love presents may be due to any number of factors, including reactions to medications, poor diet, early onset dementia, or some condition or illness unknowable to the naked eye without a medical assessment.

Depending on the particulars, the senior may simply need rides to appointments or assistance with certain tasks such as household chores, grocery shopping, meal preparation, budgeting and bill paying. Many times the helping hand called for is something a family member or friend can provide. In other cases, the personal and health care needs may be extensive or specialized enough to require in-home professional support or moving the senior to an assisted living center or nursing home.

From the start, any senior whose care is in question needs to be part of the conversation. Learn what your elderly loved one values in terms of quality of life, which often relates back to their own sense of independence, autonomy and dignity. It’s different for everyone.

Tips for Navigating the Senior Care Journey

Here are additional tips for navigating the aging journey with your loved one:

  • Actively involve the senior in decisions, allowing as much choice as possible. The process should be a conversation, not a lecture. If the parent, for example, is reluctant or resistant, gently listen and suggest, but don’t dictate.
  • Base observations and recommendations on fact, not opinion, and move things forward to meet optimal solutions. This can mean sharing published medical advice on healthy aging and safety concerns for the elderly.
  • Keep a record of incidents involving the senior’s health history (doctor visits, hospitalizations, medications, falls, etc.) as well as various care options that address different levels of need. Documenting and organizing these things can save time and headaches down the line.
  • Devise an easy-to-follow schedule for medications and appointments as well as an easy-to-find catchall for items like house and car keys, phone numbers, passwords, bills, financial records, etc. A system like this can be equally helpful to the older person and the caregiver to stay on top of things.
  • Family meetings are a good way to let everyone involved in the senior’s life have a say and be informed of care matters as they emerge or evolve. It should be a safe space to ask questions and offer input, but should not be used to vent anger or frustration. Keep it positive and productive by leaving bitter emotions or personal agendas at home. The idea is to work as a team to arrive at the best outcomes for the loved one the family is rallying around to support.
  • Navigating the elder care journey brings up tough decisions and hard feelings, which is why Right at Home developed the RightConversations guide to help ease the process, avoid pitfalls and manage uncomfortable discussions.

Bottom line, it’s challenging knowing if someone you love needs care and, if they do, what level of care is appropriate. Right at Home’s online service assessment helps determine what services your loved one might need to meet their individual needs. Or, use our location finder to contact your local Right at Home today and ask for a FREE in-home consultation.

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Author Leo Adam Biga

Leo Adam Biga is a veteran freelance journalist and author who writes stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions. The Omaha native and University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate is the author of “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.” Follow his work at

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