I had the good fortune to speak to a local Rotary chapter this morning. The question they had put to me was simply how does one plan with an older loved one for that moment that no one wants to plan? The answer is simple … because for any conversation, you just need a place to begin.
Here are five tips to BEGIN the work for your older loved one’s (or your own) future…
Break the ice. Start the conversation with your older loved one…ask questions about their ideas regarding the ‘What ifs’ of life…ex: if you had to go to a hospital, which one would you like to go to? Does your doctor have my contact information if there were an emergency? Make a list of what those choices are; include them in a Living Will or POLST “Practitioner Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment”. Make sure that your family and your health care providers are aware of the choices.
Evaluate the whole person. Use your powers of observation to assess your loved one’s situation and make notes. Think about what they have told you over time regarding their wishes, finances, housing situation, health. Plan follow up conversations to learn more about what they would want in the event of an emergency.
Guard against abuse. Begin to gather legal documents including mortgage information, insurance information, bank account locations, account numbers, etc. Ask about finances, investments. Investigate the possible utility of Powers of Attorney. If there are any gaps or documents such as wills that are out of date or non-existent, get new ones drawn up. You don’t have to have everything perfect, but you will benefit if you start the conversations or the personal reflection needed to begin the process.
Inside out. Make a list of you or your loved ones health history, get a medical release so that providers can talk to you about your loved one, consult current physicians and create a list of medications, dosing, etc.
Nest. Think about the home as safe from the inside out, not just safe from the outside in…If they are living in the house you grew up in evaluate all the years of wear and tear on the infrastructure: stair railing, worn carpet. Take a look around the home for any obvious safety issues that can be easily addressed: since the majority of falls occur at home scatter rugs, poor lighting, expired food in the fridge, extension cords stretched under rugs or in walkways. Also, expired medication or medications that resemble each other…Safety first.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.