Help Aging Parents: Partnering With Parents in Healthcare

Do we help aging parents by becoming parents to our parents, especially when they are of sound mind?  Are we supporting feelings of control and independence–feelings that help parents age well? In Tuesday’s post family members basically took over–either to persuade or make a unilateral decision regarding very serious health care for aging parents.  That made me pause.

In the first example, the stroke victim was not able to advocate for herself initially.  Someone had to step in if the outcome was to be any better than the ultimate nursing home option her doctor envisioned.  She was never left out of the loop.  She knew the reason for each action, presented in a way that offered hope….an attempt to empower so she wouldn’t lose the will to regain as much normalcy as possible….Happy ending.

In the second example, family members put pressure on the colon cancer relative. While not feeling well, and do doubt having countless thoughts about well-being, comfort, life and death (to name a few), the relative was of sound mind and realized  the merits of getting a second opinion….even if it meant a long plane ride…..happy ending.

As we impart information and try to help older and aging parents accept our advice and recommendations, we have a better chance of success when we pull mentally- capable elders in psychologically to work with us. And even when they don’t seem mentally capable, doesn’t keeping them in the loop show (at the least) respect? And at the most could it possibly activate something positive from within.

With that in mind, having called attention to best hospitals and best specialty departments, it’s still likely not everyone will/can take advantage.  As a fall-back position–or even a front-line position–it would seem an advantageous to know which are the best hospitals in aging parents’ and grandparents’ hometowns.

Check out the Hospital Quality Alliance’s website: run  by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to AARP’s June 2010 bulletin, it measures and records patients’ outcomes at local hospitals.

The site links to sections that compare hospitals, tell you how patients with certain conditions fared after hospital care, whether they had to be readmitted within 30 days, and the death rates in certain cases.  The quality of care they received during a recent stay is also provided from answers to a survey.  Only hospitals that agreed to release this information to the public are included in this government data site.

In answer to: “I just moved to a new area.  How can I find out which hospitals are considered the best in town?” for example, the AARP Bulletin’s “Ask the Experts” section provided the information.  When aging parents are making decisions to move, it could even figure into a decision about where to move.

Having and sharing objective (not emotionally-loaded) information is important for so may reasons as we try to help parents age well.