Tag Archive | Comfort Keepers Kingsport

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.

The Natural Progression of Life

elderly-handsDeath is a hard subject, one most individuals prefer to ignore. The popular idea of, if it’s not thought about then it’s not a reality, hides beneath the surface. Yet, death is very much a reality. No one has a magic “get out of jail free” card on this one. Death will, at some point, touch every individual.

The thoughts of giving up a loved one are sometimes more than we can bear. Life without that person is unimaginable.

In an article by Craig Bowron, MD, published in the Washington Post (February 17, 2012), Dr. Bowron brought to light many thought provoking ideas every family should consider when it comes to the natural progression of life for their aging parents. Some of his ideas are heartbreakingly shocking and they deal not with the aging, parent, but with the families and their duty to care effectively for them.

Dr. Bowron noted how and why life expectancy has risen since the 1900’s. Improved medical advances certainly played a role, but the simple development of improved diets, cleanliness, and urbanization decreased infant and maternal mortality by thousands. Still the primary cord that rings true in our present day world is the lack of family involvement until death’s knock suddenly arrives.

Simply translated, in the early years of our nation, as age stole away the elderly’s abilities, they came to live under the same roof as their children. Families as a whole, shared the sometimes lengthy and harsh suffering their aging parents experienced, changing their view on death. Death, in these times came as a welcomed visitor, allowing their parents to slip away with dignity and in an environment they felt loved and cared for. It was, by all due rights, normal.

Today’s world separates families. Children move across country in search of a better life, leaving aging parents behind. Though they may keep in touch, distance does what it does best – it takes away the connection.

For many, the care of an aging parent is not intentionally ignored, rather it’s skewed by the distance. The inability to be actively involved in the day to day routine of a senior’s health issues has vanished. As a parent’s health deteriorates, children no longer experience the progression of illness or disease. Instead, they assume all health issues are fixable. Medical technology is amazing. There are things that can be done to stop this process. Care is tossed into the hands of medical professionals and exceptional results are expected. Dr. Bowron goes on to state, “…our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.”

Take this story as an example. A seventy-one year-old man, strong in appearance, apparently healthy is stricken suddenly with stage 4 lung cancer. His children have always been actively involved in their parent’s lives. As a close knit family it was natural for the children to step alongside their mother in the decisions and care of their father.

The prognosis from doctors was bleak. Radiation would be a temporary solution but ultimately his comfort should take precedence.heat

Entertaining the idea of death was not an option for this family however, after only one month into his treatment they realized the desires they longed for, were their own.

Their father willingly submitted to the care the family suggested. Though his thoughts were that compliance would make this season easier on his family, when they asked him to consider traveling to a hospital that specialized in this type of cancer, he said no. They suddenly understood his treatment was not about them, it was about what was best spiritually, mentally, and physically for their father.

Studies have shown the effects of prayer on those who suffer extreme illness. Though every patient may not recover, they have a lower stress level, peace, and personal acceptance level for their treatment and prognosis. As Christians we understand the power behind prayer and we understand the will of God may not be our will. God knows best in every life. And here in lies the truth in caring for aging parents who are ill. Trust in the natural progression of life and the will of God.

When we stand toe-to-toe with death, it forces us to reach for preservation. The ultimate desire to extend the life of an individual only to cause them more pain and suffering pushes us into a catch twenty-two – the love we have for our aging parents verses the  natural progression of life.

There are exceptions to every rule. Families who intentionally do not participate in the care of their elders then demand medical interventions out of an unrecognized guilt. The attitude of “I’ll fix this,” allows them to take control and paint the picture of love and care that serves as personal satisfaction rather than gentle and loving care. When death claims the life they’ve stepped into repair, they find their comfort in blaming the medical profession. They could have done more.

The hard truth is, death is the natural progression of life and though we should make every effort to use medicine as a means of healing, there is something to be said for the quality of life. Acceptance of the progression.

The family of this elderly man, sought out their father’s desires. They cared for him, kept him comfortable, and allowed him the dignity he requested. He accepted treatments but when he drew the line, the family stepped into the role of support. Though his loss was devastating, they rested in the peace of their father’s wishes. Their faith turned to a deeper trust that God’s will was to take precedence over their own desires.

Four months later, the man passed as his family kissed him and offered him permission to leave them. And there was peace.

This article, by no means, advocates that families opt out of medical care or lifesaving measures. These things are truly personal preference. Modern medicine is a blessing and for many, the lifesaving advances are miracles. However, what this article does advocate, is the awareness, acceptance, and compassion for caring for an aging parent , and the importance of understanding their end-of-life desires. It advocates personal and family involvement, long before illness strikes building deep, strong bonds that live on after the loss of a parent.

???????????Care for your parents. Remember, even in the busyness of your life, the priority of family stands greater than anything else. Discuss end-of-life decisions with aging parents to know their wishes. The conversations are hard at best. It may be extensive measures are the choices of the parent. And then, it may not be. Either way, there is peace in knowledge. Knowledge allows a family to prepare and then in the throngs of hardship and loss, accept the progression.