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Aging Gracefully

Embracing the gifts that come with life’s progression

It seems that every magazine at the supermarket’s checkout counter promotes looking younger.

Although wrinkles and skin problems can be the bane of growing older, our mental and physical health are gifts that aging cannot defy.

In this chapter, experts present lifestyle reminders about gut health, the importance of sleep and how the most elderly populations on Earth celebrate every year of growing older.

We feature Grace Chen, 73, who shares her love of tai chi and fitness with members of the Naples Senior Center.

We also present the wisdom of Amy O’Rourke, a nationally recognized author and senior care pioneer, who addresses gently meeting our elderly parents’ wishes and boosting the fitness of the aging brain.

As actress Bette Davis said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

May we all graciously accept the gifts that come with life’s progression.

 
 
 
 
 

CHAPTER 59

 

FEATURE

The Future is Bright

Grace Chen champions movement for seniors and everyone else

by Kathy Grey

In this pandemic age, many have endured periods of isolation, sometimes breeding sedentary lifestyles. But if Grace Chen could have her way, we’d all keep moving, especially as we age.

“Why just try to age gracefully?” Chen asks. “Don’t just sit there. Let’s fight like hell!”

Chen teaches tai chi and Total Fitness with Grace at the Naples Senior Center. She believes most seniors can advance, not decline, by connecting their mental and physical functions.

“Aging doesn’t mean decaying,” is her mantra.

Chen’s volition was enhanced by the book, “Younger Next Year,” which draws on the science of aging to illustrate how people 50 and older can become “functionally younger” every year and enjoy being stronger, healthier and more alert.

Chen believes it is possible to reduce the effects of aging by tuning into the communication between the brain and the body with proper exercise, learning new skills and keeping a positive outlook — things that excite the communication between the brain and the body’s nerve cells.

The Movement Movement

“I learned tai chi when I was 55, after surviving breast cancer,” Chen says. As a financial advisor for United Bank of Switzerland in Columbus, Ohio, she realized her sedentary work produced lower back pain and “started looking for exercises I was able to do.”

She focused on tai chi, a form of exercise involving a series of gentle movements performed in a slow, focused manner, accompanied by deep breathing, keeping the body in constant motion.

After two years of tai chi, her back pain was gone, buoying her “don’t just sit there” admonition and her belief that the secret to aging gracefully is to keep moving.

“I was never serious about exercise before age 55. I’m going to be 74 next year, and I’m 20 pounds lighter and much more active because I am able to be active,” Chen says.

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Chen and husband Dave Hinds traveled to Cappadocia, Turkey, in 2019.

Bringing it to Naples

She and her husband, David Hinds, retired to Naples about 7 years ago. She couldn’t find a tai chi class in the area, but what she did find was the Naples Senior Center. Impressed by its programs, Chen volunteered to teach tai chi.

Naples provided a different demographic than Ohio, where classes were attended by folks in their 50s and 60s. Here, she’s grateful to work with people in their 70s and 80s. She structures her teaching with easy-to-learn movements that don’t frustrate participants new to the dynamic art.

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In 2018, Chen rode a camel in 'Valley of the Moon,' in Jordan.

Tai chi is a lifetime commitment Chen is happy to share with Naples Senior Center’s aging population. She sees the benefit when students — some as old as 93 (“who shock me by their ages”) — say their pain is diminished, their legs are stronger and they feel better, overall.

“That’s the reward I get,” Chen says of her volunteerism. “I don’t teach anywhere else.”

The Zen of Aging

Chen adds that aging gracefully relies heavily on attitude.

“Whatever you can do to feel positive about yourself, other people and this world — do it!” she urges.

“We all need to focus on letting go. There’s so much we can’t control or don’t like. Just let it go and focus on — prioritize — what’s important.”

Chen focuses on associating with positive people. Of course, she’s had to deal with negative people in her life. For that, she advises being aware of their undesirable traits and determining that’s not someone you want to be.

Physically, she watches her diet, avoiding fats and sugar, concentrating on high fiber, portion control and drinking lots of water. It’s nothing unusual, she says, but “It’s about developing your body and inner self.”  

Grace in the Future

In January 2022, Chen will be honored as Naples Senior Center’s Volunteer of the Year for her commitment to its fitness programs, even when they had to be conducted via Zoom.

Acknowledging the dedication and service of so many other volunteers, Chen says, “To be honored by them really humbles me. I’ve never seen anything like the Naples Senior Center. It should be the model for the whole United States.”

Between classes, she reads voraciously and plays “a lot of computer games,” she says with a laugh. Chen and her husband traveled a great deal before the pandemic — something they hope to resume as the future unfolds.

She plans to teach fitness at the Naples Senior Center for years to come.

“The students give more to me than I give to them,” she states. “Some members are 10, 15, 20 years my senior, and they are so active. It gives me a bright outlook for my own future.”

 

FYI: FOR YOUR INSPIRATION

Mindful Musing

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“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

 

~ Aldous Huxley

BRAIN HEALTH

Healthy Aging Starts with the Gray Matter

Six steps to keeping the brain in shape

by Amy Cameron O’Rourke

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As a professional care manager for more than 40 years, it is my passion to help people and their loved ones find peace and happiness as they age.

 

Our older years can provide a beautiful opportunity for connection, meaning and joy. But staying healthy takes some work, and that work begins with the brain.  From my extensive interactions with older adults, I have found six steps to be the most effective in keeping the brain in shape as we age.

The First Step:
Express yourself and be in touch with your emotions.

While this has not yet been studied, I’ve noticed that people who do not confront their emotions develop memory loss and decreased alertness much more often than those who are emotionally aware.

Confronting and staying in touch with emotions can take a variety of forms, from sharing them aloud in conversations with family, friends and support groups to meditating, journaling or creating music or art. Each person has his or her comfort zone. The important thing is to pick one or two of these activities and practice them regularly.

The Second Step:

Stay socially engaged.

When you’re older, there is a higher risk of isolation and less social interaction than in your younger years. And isolation is a predictor of memory loss. With that fact, staying socially engaged keeps the brain working while also helping to give a sense of purpose.

To stay engaged socially, try making friends of different ages who do things you enjoy or volunteering for a cause you believe in, such as animal shelters, Boys & Girls Clubs, your church or synagogue, music groups, science centers or museums.

Try something new as well, like art classes, singing or even a part-time job. Many universities also offer lifelong learning programs for older adults, where they can take weekly classes on a huge variety of topics.

One of my clients is a recovering alcoholic who works at a 24-hour hotline. Another client answers questions by phone about gardening for a local gardening center. Two friends of mine are avid gardeners in their 70s. They help friends with their yards and call themselves the “Garden Desperadoes.”

There are endless ideas for social engagement, and age should never be a limitation.

The Third Step:

Maintain a healthy diet.

There is a high correlation between diabetes and dementia, as well as between obesity and dementia. Eating a more plant-based diet can help to prevent not only obesity and diabetes, but also dementia.

Having a healthy diet all the time is never easy, so do what you can to ensure you’ll make healthier eating decisions. Explore farmer’s markets. Try healthier food substitutes. For example, cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, honey instead of sugar, yogurt instead of ice cream and bean burgers instead of beef burgers. If it’ll help you eat healthier and transportation is a challenge, buy your groceries from health-based food delivery services.

The Fourth Step:

Take care of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is also correlated to early memory loss. Addressing hearing loss by seeking hearing aids where needed helps prevent this. Often, though, hearing loss can be hard to identify, so it’s important to pay attention to the signs.

One indicator that a hearing aid might be needed is when you start to ask, “What did you say?” a lot. Also, when more than one family member or friend tells you they are speaking loudly, believe them.

The Fifth Step:

Avoid anesthesia whenever possible in your later years.

Anesthesia is known to cause memory loss. The National Institutes of Health is currently conducting in-depth research about this correlation.

When considering surgery for yourself or an older loved one, weigh the pros and cons carefully. Think about your values. If you value your cognitive health, it might be better to avoid surgery.

If you already have memory loss and receive anesthesia, your memory will very likely get worse. In fact, the benefits of surgery decrease considerably after age 80, and it might be wise to favor memory and cognitive health over the uncertain outcome of surgery.

The Sixth Step:

Multitask both physically and mentally.

There are countless activities that can easily stimulate the mind and body at the same time. By doing these types of activities multiple times on a daily basis, your memory will thank you later. Activities such as walking, talking with family and friends, watering the plants or dusting while singing or listening to the news, painting easily accessible areas around the house while listening to your favorite music and cooking while carrying on a conversation are all very doable in the fragile years.

With these six steps, both your brain and quality of life will be in much better shape during your fragile years.

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Amy Cameron O’Rourke has been a professional care manager for more than 40 years, founding The Cameron Group (now Arosa) and O’Rourke & Associates in Orlando. She is the author of “The Fragile Years.”

TO YOUR HEALTH

Celebrate Aging Okinawan Style

Taking cues from this culture makes growing older something to celebrate

by Sebastien Saitta

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half;’ Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”

Nineteenth-century English Poet, Robert Browning’s celebratory vision of old age in his poem, “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” rarely finds its way around these days.

In a world of Botox, supplements, skin-tightening serums, face-lifts, tucks, and photo filters promising to turn back the hands of time, it is evident that most of us struggle to come to terms with aging. We all want to live longer, but we don’t want to get older.

Despite all the fighting back with billions of dollars spent on anti-aging each year, it’s time to face reality. Nature always wins in the long run. It has all the time in the world. We don’t. Wrinkles begin to show, hair will gray and joints start to stiffen, among other so-called harsh realities that come with getting older. While this inevitable truth is tough to accept for many, perhaps it’s time to take a page out of the Okinawan playbook.

In Okinawa, Japan, one of five Blue Zones in the world where people live the longest and healthiest, age is something to be celebrated rather than feared — so much so that even the country of Japan as a whole designated a public holiday known as Respect for the Aged Day. Celebrated on the third Monday of every September, the government presents a commemorative sake cup to those who have turned 100 in the past year. There is a lot of celebrating to do, too, as 2020 data from the Japanese government shows that there were 80,450 people aged 100 that year. There is even an Okinawan village, called Kitanakagusuku, that holds a yearly pageant to honor women aged 80 and older.

So, what exactly is the longevity secret that draws celebration from an entire country? According to National Geographic researcher and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, there are nine principles. These principles are shared by all five Blue Zones and are known as the Power 9. Okinawans have a unique saying to support several of these principles that can be followed no matter your geographical location.

Ikigai

Pronounced ee-kee-guy, this saying roughly translates as “the reason you get up in the morning.”

Okinawans keep busy discovering and doing things that give their life meaning or purpose. According to Buettner, focusing on your purpose can add up to seven good years to your life. He notes that the year one retires can also be one of the most dangerous because of the sudden lack of purpose experienced.

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Older Japanese adults celebrate their age.

Moai

Moai (mo-eye) is a term that means meeting for a common purpose.

 

Women in Okinawa (who make up 88% of the centenarian population) often get together in groups to talk about life, gossip or share advice. This serves as a social support group where they feel cared for. They simply enjoy each other’s company. This helps keep stress levels low while enhancing feel-good chemicals in the brain that support overall health. Some of these groups were even paired as young children when the commitment was made for their entire life.

Hara Hachi Bu

Okinawans use this term to remind themselves to stop eating when they are 80% full. This goes a long way in the prevention of overeating and unnecessary weight gain.

Since it typically takes 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal from the stomach that we’re full, it usually turns out that when you think you’re 80% full, you’re actually full. Ways that help Okinawans practice this include eating mindfully and also being in the company of others to allow for conversation in between bites.

Find out your body’s biological or real age and receive personalized resources to help you live longer, happier and healthier like the Okinawans by taking Blue Zones Project’s RealAge health assessment. Visit bzpsouthwestflorida.sharecare.com.

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With more than 20 years of experience in Marketing and Public Relations, Sebastien Saitta serves to help optimize community well-being as marketing director at Blue Zones Project Southwest Florida.

Rising Stars Event

Who: Gulfshore Playhouse Education

What: Rising Stars Event: An Afternoon on the Red Carpet

When: 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 15  |  Where: Arthrex One Conference Center

1 Arthrex Way, Naples

 

Why: To raise funds for five key theater student education programs

 

Keynote: Rita Moreno: Emmy, Grammy, Academy and Tony award-winning actor

 

Details: There will be a special performance by the students from the Gulfshore Playhouse’s

STAR Academy.

 

Attire:  Luncheon Cocktail  |  Information: www.GulfshorePlayhouse.org

 
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COASTAL DESIGN

Timeless Design

Tips and tricks for keeping your home “forever young”

by Diane Torrisi

Aging gracefully has nothing to do with wrinkles. I never knew my beloved grandmother without wrinkles, and yet, I always considered her the most graceful and poised woman I knew. She never left the house without her hat, lipstick applied and her good heels on (and handbag to match).

Fast forward to today, thoughtful elegance has, regretfully, taken a bit of a backseat to our world of instant gratification and quick fixes. You are possibly reading this article in the comfort of your own home while glancing over at your current décor, wondering how it has held up to the new “trends” (I use that term lightly!) you see in local furniture showrooms or home decor magazines. 

As an interior designer, I try to use what my client already owns and has carefully curated throughout the years. I have an appreciation and respect for quality, whether it be furniture or fabrics. As with a woman’s face — good bones count. That means a sofa you bought 10-15 years ago from a reputable company, can be reupholstered multiple times. However, if reupholstering is not in your budget, but you would still like to give your home a bit of a “face-lift” (pun intended), allow me to give you some fresh design ideas.

Besides the quintessential changing of the sofa pillows, what more can you do? One of my favorites is changing the frames of your artwork or even something as small as updating your lampshades, which do go out of style. These steps never fail to amaze my clients.

Kitchen renovations are a big budget ticket. If this is not feasible, perhaps think about simply changing out your cabinet hardware. It can be an attractive and inexpensive visual change. 

I will admit that sometimes a simple “face-lift” is probably not going to fix things sufficiently. If new flooring is necessary or your window treatments have seen better days (or decades), it’s time for a tasteful upgrade.

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You may love a certain pattern — like toile de Jouy. It’s a classic, and always stylish and sophisticated, so why not try it in an unexpected, swanky new color combo?

Ladies, I have kept the best for last: wallpaper! It’s my favorite design element because it can transform a room in the time it takes my installer to hang the rolls. Whether you wish for your room to be cozier, bolder, brighter, etc., there’s a paper for you!

 

I, myself, intend to age gracefully, although I will fight it every inch of the way. Age is an attitude, and our best beauty feature is our smile. 

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Diane Torrisi grew up in Europe and brings that European flair to her design projects. She opened her own design studio in historic Bonita Springs in 2020. She is active in her community and has her own podcast, always dreaming up new offerings for her clients. Visit www.DianeTorrisiDesigns.com to learn more.

PASSING THE TORCH

Gotta Dance, Gotta Sing, Gotta Act

Gulfshore Playhouse Education provides world-class experiences for students to grow in the performing arts

by Kathy Grey

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Avery Roschek sings “I'd Rather Be Me” from “Mean Girls.”

At age 10, Avery Roschek hadn’t really thought much about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now, at age 16, Avery knows.

As a 6-year participant in Gulfshore Playhouse’s education program, Avery is determined to become a theatrical triple threat and make the performing arts her life’s career.

Although educators the world over advocate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, students with artistic proclivities might not know where to turn. But here in Southwest Florida, Gulfshore Playhouse Education — launched in 2007 — offers a range of world-class learning experiences for young performers to find their footing, their voice and their spot on the stage.

As its mission declares, the playhouse’s education programs inspire creativity, encourage self-expression and support the blossoming of self-confidence, collaboration and a deep appreciation for the arts: vital experiences our region’s children should not miss out on.

Gulfshore Playhouse’s Director of Education Steven Calakos is preparing for the next big event: a production of a different kind. “Rising Stars: An Afternoon on the Red Carpet,” set for Nov. 15, is an elite fundraiser for Gulfshore Playhouse Education, featuring legendary performer Rita Moreno as keynote speaker. The event will also feature a performance by the players’ STAR (Student Theatre Artists in Residence) Academy.

Watch this video to learn more about Gulfshore Playhouse Education.

“It’s shaping up to be quite an event,” Calakos says. “Our guests will learn about our many branches of education. We’ll explain how important each of those branches are, so the legacy of education can continue at The Baker Theatre and Education Center.”

Keynote speaker Moreno, now 90, has overcome immeasurable obstacles to become the iconic performer she is today, and has much to impart on behalf of young performers hoping to succeed in the performing arts.

And Avery, after six years with Gulfshore Playhouse Education, is a 10th-grade Seacrest Country Day student. She has performed in Gulfshore Playhouse’ education productions of “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Little Women,” “Grease,” “Aladdin,” “The Addams Family,” “Les Misérables” and, most recently, “The Secret Garden.”

 

Even when she lived in Cincinnati for a time, Avery returned to Naples for the STAR Academy summer shows. Her family lives in Southwest Florida again, and Avery extols the virtues of her Gulfshore Playhouse education, something she considers her second home.

“The entire team comes together, and you become more like a family,” Avery says, adding that she has also participated in the promotional aspects of theater. “It’s gotten me out there and willing to speak publicly. I’ve sung on the news, and I’m singing at the gala soon.”

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Angela Keon, Avery Roschek, Alexis Camina and Grace Serrano perform “Grease is the Word” from “Grease,” produced by Gulfshore Playhouse’s  STAR Academy.

Avery and her sister, Emerson, are now in rehearsal for Gulfshore’s “Annie,” with Emerson as an orphan and Avery in the role of Grace Farrell.

 

“She’s got great comic timing,” Calakos says of Avery. “She can do pretty much everything. She’s humble, friendly, kind … and she really is a star.”

Avery sums up her aspiration succinctly: “I’d like to spend the rest of my life doing this,” adding words of gratitude to the Gulfshore Playhouse team that inspired her: “Thank you for growing up with me and helping me grow. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me and will give me in the future.”

To learn more about Gulfshore Playhouse’s educational mission, visit Education - Gulfshore Playhouse | Theatre Education.

SLEEP HYGIENE

How to Avoid Falling Back With the Clocks

Neuropsychologist offers tips to get ready for the end of daylight saving time

Post-summer sluggishness usually kicks in as fall approaches. The one thing that makes winter’s approach evident is the loss of daylight. For many, this also leads to a loss of energy, an uptick in short temper and even bouts of depression.

To ease into the winter months, NYC-based neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, director of Comprehend the Mind, offers practical tips to prepare for the clock change.

First, it’s important to understand the clock change’s impact on our brains and bodies.

“A cell in the retinas of our eyes, called a ganglion cell, contains the photopigment melanopsin,” Dr. Hafeez explains. “When we are exposed to sunlight, melanopsin signals a pathway to cells in the hypothalamus, specifically responsible for regulating our body's biological functions.

“This process then triggers the pineal gland, which is in charge of melatonin secretion, which peaks at night and wears off during the day.

“In simpler terms,” Dr. Hafeez says, “the less light exposure we get, the more out-of-whack we feel.”

According to Dr. Hafeez, the following simple adjustments leading up to the clock falling back can make a significant difference for those who don’t struggle with more severe depression or bipolar disorder.

1. Avoid alcohol.

Drinking alcohol before turning back the clocks can add more sluggishness the next morning.

“Even with just a one-hour clock change, our body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off, making our brains a bit confused. Alcohol only heightens these effects,” Dr. Hafeez explains.

Imagine the double whammy of a hangover after the clocks change.

2. Enjoy physical activity during the daytime.

The more time spent outside in the daylight doing physical activity, the less sluggish you will feel once the clocks fall back.

Fall is a great time to power walk or go for a run. If you’re an early riser, you’ll love the earlier sunrise at least for the next few weeks.

“A lot of people shift their exercise routines to include more high energy group workouts in the evenings to give themselves something to look forward to as a way to shake off the workday. You really want to pay attention to when you feel most energized and align your exercise to that,” suggests Dr. Hafeez.

3. Don’t sleep in. Go to bed earlier instead.

In the days leading up to the clock change, add extra “wind-down” time before bed and get to bed an hour earlier.

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On the Sunday morning of the clock change, people mistakenly opt to sleep in. You really want to stick to the same wake-up time while getting to bed earlier. That’s the key, Dr. Hafeez says.

“People think they are gaining an hour of sleep, but they’re not, because at bedtime, they’re losing it. When you keep the wake-up time and get to bed earlier, that extra hour isn’t felt as much the next day,” she explains.

 

4. Avoid watching the news before bed.

People think that getting to bed an hour earlier means it’s ok to watch TV in bed before sleep. TV of any kind stimulates the brain. Your favorite show causes you to focus when you’re trying to shut down stimulation. The news is even worse, because you can get wrapped up in stressful events.

“If you really want to make sure you still wake up refreshed, opt for tranquil music or guided meditations available on YouTube or an app,” recommends Dr. Hafeez.

5. Plan ahead. Consider taking Monday off.

For those who find their mood is negatively impacted after the fall clock change, consider taking Monday off and make it about self-care.

Wake up early, taking advantage of the early light. Enjoy a healthy breakfast. Get a massage, catch up on reading or do whatever makes you feel good.

“People can feel the effects of the clock change for up to three weeks, Dr. Hafeez says. “Taking a day off to focus on your own well-being can become a nice post-clock-change ritual.”

 

Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, a faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder/clinical director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. To learn more, visit www.comprehendthemind.com

PARENTAL SHIFTS

Negotiating and Navigating with Our Elders

Aging parents have the right to make bad decisions

by Amy O’Rourke

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“I want to control my aging parents, but I think I’m going to lose this battle.”

This quote in a recent Wall Street Journal article refers specifically to one woman’s wish that she could rein in her older parents from resuming their usual pre-COVID social life now that they’re vaccinated. She’s worried that, despite the vaccine, their many gatherings at church and with friends could still pose a risk to their safety.

 

But the same statement could be made by countless adults who long to protect their aging parents from other potential dangers: driving when their eyesight and reflexes are not what they used to be, climbing ladders to clean gutters and keeping expired food in the fridge (and eating it). These things happen all the time.  

 

So do lifestyle changes affecting older loved ones’ health and fitness — things younger generations wish they could fix. Refrains like these are all too common: “Stand up straight, mom.” “Let’s go to the gym together.” “Try walking three times a day.” “What if you got meals delivered?” 

Most often, these efforts to control parents’ behavior are met by resistance. Adults in their fragile years resist attempts by their children to help them stay healthy and safe because they fear that they’re no longer in control and that help is a sign the end of life is approaching. This is especially pronounced when it comes to the decision about getting help. An older client once told me that she saw accepting a caregiver as “the beginning of the end.”

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It’s painful and sad to watch a parent who was once strong, upright and clear-thinking diminish. And trying to get the parent to not decline and to stay clear of dangers, is a normal response. But when is or isn’t it the right thing to do?

From my 40 years of experience as a care manager to older adults, I have come to believe that it’s best for adult children to give up any thought of “controlling” their aging parents, even if this means allowing them to make bad decisions. Trying to control them will ultimately prove as futile as telling kids what to do over and over again. Instead, my advice is to work with them to help them feel more comfortable with assistance, whether from loved ones or a professional caregiver. 

Navigating this process takes patience and skill. Here are a few steps you can take to make it go more smoothly:

 

1. Get involved early in the game.

While I was assessing an older woman at her daughter’s request, the woman said to me, “My daughter thinks I am dying, doesn’t she?” The daughter hadn’t visited in three years. Her sudden involvement was a red flag. To some, this can feel like a death knell. If you are involved on a regular basis over the years, your presence and support will not be alarming, and your parent will be more inclined to cooperate with your initiatives.

2. Spend some extended periods of time with your parent.

The 72-hour visit concept laid out by Dr. Dennis McCullough in his book, “My Mother, Your Mother,” is very effective. The goal is to spend time with the parent over an extended period of time. No judgment, no convincing them to do anything; just be there. You can observe, get a better sense of your parent’s capacities and build trust.

3. Avoid using the tone of voice you would with a child.

It’s a surefire way to fail!

 

4. Proceed slowly. 

Chances are, your ideas are bigger and more complicated than what your aging parents are ready for. Ratchet down, go slow and seek small solutions, then build from there. 

5. Lighten your emotional baggage.

Lingering feelings of anger or frustration toward your parent will block decision-making and trust. Seek outside help from friends or professionals to work through these unresolved issues. 

6. Build a support team. 

Siblings, friends, nieces, rabbis, nurses, colleagues, attorneys, financial advisors — who can listen and bring ideas to the table? Who will your parents trust? Ask your community for referrals. One good referral can lead to another.

If you feel you need an additional layer of support in navigating this and other challenges of the fragile years, you might consider hiring a professional care manager. Care managers help families transition through the fragile years together. Yes, it can be expensive, but there’s always the option to pay for a few sessions and create a game plan together. A care manager can also help save money over time by helping you make better choices from the outset, avoiding costly errors.  

As with the other approaches above, this will bring greater peace of mind.

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Amy Cameron O’Rourke, author of “The Fragile Years,” is a nationally recognized pioneer/advocate for senior care in the U.S. She has been a professional care manager for more than 40 years.