Health & Family

Don't delay talking with your elderly parents

Home Instead Senior Care, a national home care service, with the help of University of Arizona communications professor Jake Harwood, has produced a guide detailing the 40-70 Rule, which describes how to open communications between baby boomers and their parents. Even if Alzheimer's isn't currently an issue or driving at night hasn't posed a problem, the best way is to discuss those issues before they manifest.

1. Get started. If you're at least 40 or your parents are at least 70, it's time to start observing and gathering information. Don't reach a conclusion from a single observation or decide on the best solution until you have gathered information with an open mind and talked with your parents.

2. Talk it out. Discuss what you've observed and ask your parents what they think is going on. If your parents acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be good solutions. If your parents don't recognize a problem, use examples to support your case.

3. Sooner is best. Talk sooner rather than later after a crisis has occurred. If you know your parent has poor eyesight or has trouble driving at night, begin to address those issues before a problem arises.

4. You're talking to an adult, not a child. Put yourself in your parents' shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the same situation.

5. Maximize independence. Favor solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for the older person. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. For instance, if your loved ones need assistance at home, look to resources that can help them maintain their strengths such as trusted friends, neighbors or in-home caregivers.

6. Know the whole situation. If a parent dies and soon afterward the house seems to be in disarray, it's probably not because the surviving spouse suddenly became ill. It's much more likely to stem from a lack of social support. Make sure your parent has friends and a social life.

7. Ask for help. Many issues can be solved by providing parents with the support they need to continue to maintain their independence. Resources such as area agencies on aging and local senior centers can help provide those solutions.