We all know of someone who has received that call out of the blue that a mother or father has fallen and fractured a hip or has had some other unexpected medical emergency that demands a caregiver response. We don’t always hear about a adult child of an older parent who actually has been really prepared for the emergency. I would like to offer some advice here about how everyone with an older parent – whether there has been a crisis or not – can benefit from having some sort of plan in place to make being a caregiver a less frantic and more thoughtful transition.
1. Have the Conversation. Think of this the same way you would in a business setting. If you have an older parent, call a meeting of the siblings and your parent(s). This could be when everyone already is going to be together for the holidays, and make it like any other meeting. This meeting may be easier to have without the older parents present as a first step so that all the kids in the family can openly and honestly express their concerns and questions. Have an agenda, and circulate it ahead of time. You should ask if there is a will, are there advance directives, a power of attorney? Find out who is best able to provide what kinds of caregiver support in advance of an emergency.
2. Know Your Family. You all grew up together, and most or all of you now have families of your own. Yet, you still are brothers and sisters and some of the family dynamics that may have been vexing when you were very young will still be challenging. Having some of this conversation early will give everyone a chance to see who can be counted on and for what. It also will give you all a chance to sort out some of the challenges without the added stress of a medical emergency at some later date.
3. Interview Your Parent(s). Set a time when you can talk with or without a recorder going about their memories of home and the family as you all were growing up. They may like speaking “for the record” about their memories of their own parents as they grew up and older. You can also use this as an opportunity to talk about how their see their futures. You may have had your own experience like this as your kids have gone off to college and they want to know what you will do when they leave home. And if your parents want to move to a new, more manageable place, this is a chance to explore that as well as the options.
4. Know Your Resources. Become familiar with the hospital where your parent(s) may be admitted in the event of an emergency. Get to know the social workers at the hospital, because they will know what you also should know about how they manage emergencies and discharges subsequent to hospitalizations. Have your parent(s) sign a disclosure document so that you will be able to speak with a health care provider. Make sure you also have phone numbers and names of neighbors who may be called upon should there be a medical emergency.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.