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Making health-care decisions for parents isn't easy
You can help pare down choices, boost quality of life
Rich DeLong is the executive director of The Suites At Station Exchange in Richmond Hill. - photo by File photo

There are a few things that I always look forward to during the holiday season. Getting together with family is the first.  
This year, we had a total of 17 loved ones — in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and grandparents — celebrating Christmas at our home. Wow!  
It was the first time we have hosted Christmas for all of our family members, and needless to say, it was full of fun and joy.
No matter where we gather, you can bet there will be a few other delights to enjoy: chocolate-covered pecans made with nuts from the family farm, my mother-in-law’s homemade pimento cheese, Jennifer’s famous chicken cheese ball and egg nog with a spirit that will warm your heart — not to mention your toes.
As families gather together around the country, something else often takes place.  
At least one member of the family begins to notice that mom — or it could be dad, grandpa, grandma, aunt Emma, etc. — is having a more difficult time with life’s daily tasks.  
Living alone at home appears to be more challenging for mom, and there is a clear concern for safety. She hasn’t been taking her medications as prescribed, and she appears to be confused at times.  
She insists that everything is OK; but you know better.  
The question of how to address this with mom is not easy.  
Dad made the kids promise before he died that mom would never have to go to a nursing home.  
Most of the kids live far enough away that keeping an eye on her is not even an option.  
She has nice neighbors, but they are older as well and can’t check on her on a consistent basis.  
Hiring a companion to stay with mom can be expensive over the long term; plus, she will feel like her privacy is being invaded.  
If any of this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone.  
Each year during the holidays, families are faced with concerns and decisions very similar to what has been described above.  
So what are the options?  I always use the IDEAL method of problem solving, which stands for identify, describe, evaluate, act and learn.
First, identify the problem. Mom lives alone and needs more oversight.  
Second, describe the possibilities. She could continue to stay alone at home. We could buy her a monitoring help button for emergencies.
We could arrange for a companion to come to the house.  
Mom could move in with one of the children — better check with your significant other before choosing this one.  
We could explore the idea of moving her to a senior-living community.  
All of these are valid options with various consequences attached.
Next, evaluate these options. You will have to consider mom’s financial resources along with her personal preferences.  
Also know at this point that safety trumps everything. If the decision that is made does not add any measure of safety to the picture, it is not really an option.
The fourth step is to act. Probably the worst decision that could be made is to do nothing and hope that everything will be OK.
I’m all about hope, but I’m a realist, too; and experience tells me that this situation is an accident waiting to happen.
Last, learn from your decision — was it mission accomplished or is there still more work to do?  
Using the IDEAL method will help you come up with the right answers.    

 Call DeLong at 912-531-7867 or visit him online at

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