Most of us don’t like to even think of growing old, let alone plan for it, and I’ve never met anyone who says gleefully, “When I get old, I want to live with strangers!”. Yet, if we’re lucky, we will indeed grow old, and there may possibly be a stranger or two to help us along someday. Someone like me, for instance. I am asked so many questions about what to do about things related to growing older that it’s hard to narrow it down for a one page article, but read on for three of the most frequently asked:

Who is a gerontologist?

A Gerontologist is a specialist in the field of aging. We focus on biological, psychological, cognitive , and sociological change experienced by the older adult. As Senior advocates, we educate and provide support and opportunity for the highest quality of life as individuals age.

How do I introduce hiring a caregiver?

Unless your parent or other loved one has mentioned having difficulty going about activities of daily living, expect some push back when you suggest hiring someone to help, especially when the person has lived alone successfully until now. If the need for a caregiver arises because the one who has been doing the informal caregiving is no longer in the picture, the subject of hiring a caregiver could be difficult because the one being cared for may not realize the extent to which he or she relied upon the unpaid caregiver, which was usually the spouse. So, when you first broach the subject of hiring a caregiver, keep in mind that while most of us are fiercely independent, virtually all of us value our privacy. Therefore, position the conversation as goal setting for independence and privacy. Lead with something like, “Mom/Dad, I’ve noticed that you’re (describe the problem/concern), and that can interfere with your well-being and ability to remain living independently. Let’s explore some ways to keep you (safe/healthy, etc.) here at home.” This is one of Those conversations like having the birds and bees talk with your kid or screwing up your courage to discuss “where this relationship is going”. It can be awkward, but if your loved one needs help, it must be done. When it’s over, you will have cleared the first, and maybe only, hurdle! The subject has been broached, and you’ve brainstormed together about daily challenges and ways to overcome them rather than told your loved one what needs/must be done.

The next step is to arrange a meeting between either a gerontologist or a home health agency to discuss the things your loved one can use their help to do, especially if there has been a noticeable change in physical or mental function. I like to take baby steps to work at a comfortable speed for the family and care recipient, and there are many different ways and strategies to do this.

My loved one has been suffering from depression since being told she/he has dementia. Can you help?

Depression takes hold when we feel that we are without choice or hope. During the initial assessment, I administer The Montreal Cognitive Memory test and listen actively to the aged individual as he or she talks about concerns and challenges. At that point, I am in a position to underscore that their decision making days are not over, and that while some lifestyle adjustments need to be made, a diagnosis of memory loss does not mean that immediate and constant care is necessary. In many cases, simply learning what to do to maintain the accustomed lifestyle can ease depression. Will having a housekeeper to clean, grocery shop or cook, or will engaging a medication manager be part of a go – forward plan to remain in place? Will twice daily reminder phone calls be sufficient? The test and follow up conversation are extremely important for everyone because each solution I offer is tailor – ma de for the individual. When Faenzi Associates provides care management, solutions are adjusted immediately as circumstances change. If care is managed by the family or another provider, we can provide regular re – assessments and offer more additional resources and direction as needed.

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Kathy Faenzi - Head ShotKathy C. Faenzi MA is a Clinical Gerontologist and Senior Care Consultant based in San Mateo, CA.

JC Spicer, M.Ed. is a Freelance Social Science Writer and Developmental Editor based in the U.K.