Families may want to consider a geriatric assessment, which is a head-to-toe, two-hour exam performed by a geriatrician. Doctors will evaluate the heart, lungs, ears, eyes, memory, and ability to walk, among other things.
Most of all, Allison-Ottey said, the aging parent needs to be part of the decision-making process. "The elderly still want to have a sense of independence," she said. "It is still their lives." It's important for adult children to ask their parents what they want — particularly in terms of whether they will want to stay in their own home, whether they want help around the house, or whether they will want to live in a nursing home when conditions require it — while they are still able to give insight. When adult children are not sure what their parents want, they tend to make a lot of decisions for them later on, which can result in a significant amount of guilt.
"It is very difficult to see your parent or your loved one who was strong, vibrant, and healthy to all the sudden be weak, ill, or dependent," Allison-Ottey said. "I do suggest that families get support. Understand that you are not superman or superwoman. Understand the limitations for your family — financial limitations, social limitations, and the amount of time you can devote to care."