Tag Archive | caregiver

Seeking a Higher Level of Care

By Cindy Sproles

 

Courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com and PICNIC_Fotografie

Parents are the foundational support of the family. They are the symbol of strength when we are children, caring and providing for us. Their goal – to assure their children grow to be happy and productive adults.

As we grow and take on families of our own, our parents welcome grandchildren into their arms likewise providing that special love and care a grandparent can only give. But what happens when the reality of an aging parent hits home?

No longer are we comfortable with leaving the grandchildren in their care. No longer are we sure they can care completely for themselves. A time comes when the roles must reverse. Our parents need assistance and it’s hard to accept.

Every situation lends itself to the specific needs of each individual parent. Therefore having a conversation about the future needs of their care is vital while parents are in good health and not in the throes of sudden illness.

It is important to know there are levels of care spanning from simple assistance to fully dependent care in a facility. Rushing to either degree is not something one takes lightly, rather it is one family members assess with great care.

*In-home non-medical caregivers – The first stage of higher care is the introduction of a caregiver who can come into the home for a few hours a week to help with the mundane skills life requires. Non-medical caregivers can prepare meals, assist with light housekeeping, and help with personal care and hygiene. Most aging parents can maintain their home for a number of years with just a few hours weekly from an outside caregiver. It is important to take into consideration the pros and cons of hiring a private caregiver, keeping in mind the need for backgrounds checks, and access to personal finances and properties must remain strictly limited and monitored. When hiring through a caregiver company, children can trust background checks are performed and workmen’s compensation insurance and liability insurance is in place to cover the caregivers. Please note, when hiring a private caregiver, families are responsible to pay taxes, provide a 1099, and assure there is workmen’s compensations available to protect both your parent and the caregiver. Check with your parent’s homeowner’s insurance to see what is covered and what is not via their homeowner’s policy. Families are stunned that coverage does not extend to cover private contracted laborers. Though private caregivers can be safe and dependable, families are best served to cover the bases of safety and security by considering a company’s assistance. Companies must meet strict standards of care and are monitored by their perspective states.

*Assisted living – When in-home care is not enough the next step of care is assisted living. Parents live in an assisted living community. Their independence is 100%, being allowed to come and go as they please, even drive if they are physically and mentally able. Assisted living offers full internal assistance if needs require. Facilities or communities provide meals, transportation if needed, and a physician, nurse practitioner, or RN on staff 24/7. The primary requirement for living in assisted living is to be independent enough to get themselves out of the building in the event of a fire or facility emergency. Otherwise, assisted living can help parents up until memory care or full care becomes necessary. Assisted living is far more affordable than families imagine. It’s important to know that when families close the parent’s home and turn off utilities, cancel insurances, and either rent or sell a home, those same funds can now be diverted to the cost of assisted living. On a personal note, our family rents our parents home through a realtor and all those funds go to defer the costs of assisted living. Between those funds and parental social security, the costs are met easily and there is no drain on our family. Of course, every situation is different, but it is wise for families to delve deeper into this option and have an open mind.

*Nursing home and end-of-life care – The circle of life continues despite our best efforts. Seek the assistance of an attorney early on to protect parent’s assets in a revocable trust, then when the time arises for full-time nursing, families are somewhat prepared. Do your homework. Seek out the facility that can best care for your parent and then take it upon yourself to be proactive. Visit frequently and at unexpected times so the facility staff sees you are actively involved in your parent’s care.

Write down the wishes of your aging parents and when the time comes for additional assistance, there will be no questions. Make the transition to assisted care easier by early preparation.

 

Photo Courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com and PICNIC_Fotografie

Easing into the New Year

Photo courtesy morguefile.com & a2jc4life

Organization is the best way to end the year and begin the next, especially if your loved one has been ill. Arranging the needs of our seniors can be a long task, but the effort more than repays itself. Follow these suggestions to start “new” in the New Year.

Make a portable carry file with individual file folders inside. Name each file with individual Doctor’s names, addresses and phone numbers. As medical, pharmaceutical bills, and EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits) forms arrive in the mail, they can be easily filed and accessible. If the expenses are extensive, you may be asked to produce past paid invoices for physicians or even hospitals.

Update personal files. Update medication lists twice to three times yearly. Dispose of old prescriptions. Note of new ones. Make several copies of this list and keep them in your files for easy access in the event of emergency or new doctor visits. Noting when a drug is added/subtracted, purchase date, and if the drug has been suspended, when and who suspended it. Update all dosage changes. Changes will be in order of date for easy reference. Keep a copy in your car in case of emergency.

Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney. Be sure Power of Attorney and Power of Medical Attorney are in place and keep copies with key family members as well as in your loved one’s personal file. Carry copies to doctor’s visits and add them to your senior’s medical files. Place copies of these papers along with Living Wills, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), and other end-of-life requests in an envelope and tape them to the refrigerator or inside a cabinet door in the kitchen in the event EMT or Paramedic services are required.

Banking needs. Make arrangements with banks and lending institutions so key family members are able to access funds in the event your loved one is unable to manage their personal business. Simply being listed on the signature card at the bank does not give you access to funds in the event of the loss of a parent. Check with all banking institutions, life insurance, 401K providers, and retiree benefits to be sure the proper paperwork is in place otherwise, accounts can be locked by the institution and made inaccessible.

Verify Insurance co-pays and coverages. Verify deductibles and co-pays. Inquire about old coverages and verify changes. If changes have occurred, ask companies to mail an updated coverage sheet so you are prepared. Never assume that insurance remains unchanged. Healthcare is changing continually. There is no longer security in what you “once” had. Failure to keep up-to-date on insurance can cost your loved one thousands of dollars.

Logs and calendars. Keep a log book of Doctor visits, reason for visit, items discussed, any medication changes, and referrals. It’s easy to forget instructions, but if an emergency arises the details are easily forgotten or confused. The faintest pen is better than the sharpest memory. If there is an in-home caregiver having this log book provides up-to-date information for the care of their patient, but for you, it provides accountability in how those caregivers are providing services. Write upcoming dates on a large calendar so seniors can see the appointments clearly. Keeping a calendar can be one of the best things you do for your aging parent. It adds a sense of security and routine to their lives and it reduces stress and worry. Large erasable calendars are wonderful.

Personal Emergency Response Button. PERS units are valuable assets for aging parents. Units are placed in the home and the client wears a button around their neck. In the event of a fall or an emergency, parents simply press the button. A call center responds immediately securing the necessary emergency help necessary. PERS units save lives by getting immediate response to family members.

Caregiver services are available to offer respite to families. Many seniors may need minimal assistance bathing, dressing, and help with daily living skills. Caregivers placed by in-home, non-medical companies can provide this assistance. Seeking caregiver services through a company provides families with the security that individuals coming into the home are safe, reliable and fully meet state licensure requirements for in-home care.

Start the year by being prepared. Taking these advance steps will bring your loved one into the new year with a new sense of security and ease.

Care Plan Preparation – Making the Transition Easier

The time arrives when the roles reverse. The years parents lovingly carried you to the doctor when you were ill has now taken an about face. You, the child, are now in charge of your aging parent’s care. What do you do?

It’s a shock when the roles reverse. As children we remember the strength and dependability we’ve found in our parents. When the realization that these things are slipping hits, we’re a bit taken back. The key to getting a handle on your new role is to first sit back and take a deep breath. Give yourself a day to absorb the change and yes, to mourn just a bit. It’s sad when we realize our parents are no longer able to care for themselves. There’s a certain amount of fear attached. Will I make the right decisions? What would mom or dad want? What about the finances?  It’s easy to go into caregiver overload. So take a day. Enjoy memories of the past and then move on into the present. There’s no reason wonderful memories can’t continue, but the key lays in how we handle the situation.

Make a Notebook

A simpe three-ring binder from the local Wal-Mart can make all the difference in the world. It becomes your brain book. Take time to make one. Add paper, dividers that list things like appointments, notes from appointments, questions, physician names and phone numbers. A tab for medications is valuable to note medication changes and what meds your parents are currently taking.

Make a List of Physicians

Take time to sort through the list of doctors who care for your parents and consider what and who can be consolidated into medical groups rather than individual doctors. Sometimes health issues will not allow this but if possible, narrowing the care to one or two primary physicians allows for a cleaner plan of care. Doctors in the same group can talk, work together and plan necessary medical care for your loved one.  If your parent is in a medical situation which will not allow this consolidation, the list all the names, numbers and addresses of physicians and add them to a notebook for convenience. Add the hospital of choice and the number as well as the ambulance service of choice to this book. Having this at your fingertips is a life saver.

Choose a Family Liaison

If there are siblings, choose one to be the liaison between family and physicians. This person will attend medical appointments, take notes, ask questions and gather suggestions on behalf of the other family members. The adage, “too many cooks in the kitchen” is true. When too many individuals have a hand in this very important communication, misunderstandings and miscommunications happen. Choose one person to manage this part of your parents care and let them handle the questions, make the family communications and set appointments.

Take Notes

Add complete notes for each medical visit to the care notebook. Include any suggestions or changes to medical care or medications.

Make sure the Legal Work is Done

Make sure you have dual power-of-attorney in place. Secure medical and personal power-of-attorney so in the event of an emergency you have the power to care for your parent as needed. Keep a copy in your car, with each family member, and even post a set of legal papers on the refrigerator in the event EMS must come into the home. Add these papers to your notebook as well.

Monitor Medical Care

If you are not getting the attention you feel your parent needs with their current physicians,  exercise your right to find a new doctor. The fit between physician and patient must be tight and good. You must feel secure in the attention. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In emergency situations fear will sometimes slip in. Remember, even in fear, be kind in your communications. If you find it difficult to discuss a medical situation with a calm attitude and firm kindness, find someone who can help you communicate clearly.

Get help if you Need It

If you need caregivers to help with the care and safety of your parents, get help. Yes, there is a cost involved but having this help does two things 1) it offers respite in the care of seniors for the family 2) it gives a second set of eyes watching over the needs of your loved one.

Invest in a Personal Medical Alert System

A PERS unit or personal medical alert system is vital especially if your parents are still living alone. A small necklace or bracelet is worn and if a parent falls or becomes ill, they simply press the button. Costs run from $29-$45 per month. Check out companies who offer the service monthly rather than locking clients into a contract and advocate for a service who clients must speak to personally during an emergency rather than having 911 services dispatched if they are not needed. (see our resource page)

Role reversal is hard. But the path can be smooth for just a little preparation. Take time to make ready the path. When the time arrives to walk it, you’ll have an easy to follow map.