Are you worried about a relative or friend who is an older adult? Is he or she moving more slowly, eating less, or forgetting things? Is this normal aging, or are there issues that need attention? Is he or she denying that anything is wrong, or is he or she aware of problems, perhaps worried and waiting for some help from you? Of course, if there is a major event such as a stroke heart attack, or serious fall, you are suddenly aware of a need but may be uncertain of how best to help.

Each family has its own history and dynamics. However, the basic issue common to all is how various family members can be helpful and still preserve the dignity and as much independence as possible for an aging person. The family often wants to rush in to help, and while well meaning, they may overwhelm a slower-thinking or moving older adult. Sometimes it is hard for a child to face the deterioration of a parent. Many time siblings disagree on what can or should be done, or an older adult may have different ideas about the care of an aging spouse. The reality is that everyone brings something different and important to the table, and they all need each other.

If possible, planning ahead as a family is the best way to approach this part of the family’s future. This book provides guidelines for exploring the issues to be addressed and options that may be workable for all concerned. A first step can be listening to the person needing care talk about his/her expectations for the future, without making assumptions. A useful technique is to focus your concerns and questions on yourself (“I’m feeling concerned that you might fall coming down the stairs”).

Many seniors face their aging concerns realistically and make many of their own plans as a “gift to their family.” This book can help these seniors identify those issues and consider the options. Planning ahead for the aging process has many unknowns, because the exact nature of individual aging issues is not predictable. Still, there are many concrete steps that
can be taken to ease the aging process as it evolves.

For the purpose of this book, “family” is defined as whoever makes up the relationship between
elder and caregiver. This can include friends and
neighbors as well as blood relatives.