If you’re taking on the responsibility of caring for an elderly parent in your home, you’ll want to know the best ways to prepare for their arrival. These nine essential rules will help you get ready for new role:
.Just as you organize and take care of your own financial, health and legal files, it’s important you have access to the same information belonging to your elderly parent. If possible, try and collect information and actual records of the following (some of which you may need to help access special services and healthcare for your parent):
.Social security number
.Healthcare insurance details. Is your parent receiving Medicare? If so, do you have detailed information regarding the benefits of this service? You will need to copy the back and front of all their health insurance cards and policies.
.Details of other healthcare providers, e.g, dentist, pharmacy, optometrist.
.A list of all the medications your parent is taking, dosage amounts and instructions for taking them. Take this information with you to every medical appointment.
.Copies of past medical records, including date and results of recent medical tests e.g, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans
Do you know if your parent has made any of the following – a will, durable power of attorney for finances, durable power of attorney for healthcare, a living will? Some of these will help you take care of and make decisions for your elderly parent if their health condition deteriorates to a point where they are unable to represent themselves. If not, you might want to arrange to help your parent prepare these legal documents. When necessary, consult a lawyer specializing in elderly law. If some of these documents have already been drawn up, make sure you have access to the records and are aware of their content.
Make sure you are aware of your loved one’s financial matters. Do they have bank accounts? Do they receive regular income from social security, pension programs or through other channels? Do they own any assets, property or real estate? How much is their home worth? Do they have any other investments, stocks or IRAs? If possible, talk to your elderly parent about how they might wish you to help manage or arrange their financial matters.
2. Do your research
If your loved one has particular medical conditions, make sure you are well informed about what they are. Talk to their physicians and take the time to obtain reading matter from the library or book stores. Being informed will help you provide the best possible care for your elderly parent and will also make your task easier since you will gain valuable advice. You may even find supporting services that will help you with their care.
3.Call a family meeting
Your elderly parent might be living with you but that doesn’t always mean the full responsibility of their care should fall on your shoulders. Call a family meeting involving all those who are interested in the care of your parent. Express any desires for additional help you have and how your family members can be involved. Talk about important decisions that have to be made regarding your parent and try to get input that will be useful. Allow everyone to have a chance to express their feelings and wishes.
4. Know your community resources
Gather information about your community’s local services. They may include senior centers and adult day centers. Or you might find useful meal delivery and transportation support services, as well as home health agencies. Also, contact your local social services department to discover other services you might benefit from. There is valuable information you can access via the internet including support groups and forums for elderly caregivers. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for advice too – those who have experience in taking care of an elderly loved-one might have a wealth of information to share with you, too.
5. Look out for these symptoms
Many people believe that incontinence, signs of confusion, depression, or loss of sight, hearing or memory, are symptoms to be expected in the elderly. However, many fail to realize that these are often treatable conditions and could be side effects of prescription drugs. If you notice any of these symptoms in your elderly parent, take them to their physician. Failure to report them could lead to unnecessary functional decline in your loved one.
6. Hire a care manager
This is another resource you might find to be a great help. These professionals are trained to assess your loved-one’s particular needs and make recommendations about services which could benefit them. They will help you make the most of community resources and will also hire and manage paid caregivers on your behalf. Visit the website for the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (www.caremanager.org) to help you locate a care manager near you.
7. Consult your elderly parent as much as possible
If your elderly parent is in a healthy state of mind, it is vital that you talk to and consult them about every aspect of their care – after all, much of your responsibility will be to make sure they are comfortable and happy with their environment, daily routine and how they are being cared for. Gain as much input from them as possible about their needs, wishes and preferences. In all aspects, involve them in decision-making as much as possible. This will help them maintain control of their affairs and will make for a better patient – caregiver relationship.
8. Take care of yourself
Despite all your good intentions, if you don’t take care good care of yourself, you may be of little emotional and practical help to your elderly parent. If you feel you are becoming over-tired and stressed because of your new responsibilities, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from other family members and friends, or even community services, who will allow you to take a break when needed. Make time for yourself – to relax and for your own interests so that you don’t feel like your entire life has been taken over by your role as a caregiver. In addition, make sure you don’t neglect your own meals and healthcare as you look after these needs for your elderly parent.
Acknowledge any feelings you have related to your parent’s need for care – sadness, frustration, anxiousness about their future. Write your feelings down in a journal or enlist a listening ear if it helps. Bottling up emotions instead of confronting them can cause additional emotional stress. Take good care of yourself and your role as a caregiver will stay manageable.
9. Purchase or hire good equipment
There are lots of tools and devices available for purchase today that can make life for your elderly loved-one (and you!) easier and more comfortable. Consider if both you and your parent might benefit from equipment such as wheelchairs and wheelchair ramps, eating or dressing aids, walkers or rollators, bathroom and toileting aids, physical therapy accessories and incontinence aids. Since the elderly are more susceptible to bed sores, consider investing in a pressure mattress or alternating pressure mattress that will help prevent these uncomfortable and serious wounds. Research the variety of elderly-aids on offer to help you give your precious loved-one the best care possible.
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