In this posting, I have invited Julie Northcutt, President of Caregiverlist.com, a company that uses new technology to deliver objective and comprehensive information and helps families select the right senior care. I have asked her to talk to us about how those “summer family visits” can be productive times for families to lay the foundations for life decisions when there is an elder or other special needs individual in the family. Please give her a read:
“Do your parents live in another city, state or country? Do you only enjoy a lengthy visit with them during summer holidays? If this is the case, remember to take a complete assessment of their current care needs while you are visiting. This will allow you to prevent emergency senior care planning later and eliminate the added stress last minute planning can cause. It is also a good time to assess the home for issues which may be a safety concern due to changing mobility and vision loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports falls are the leading cause of injury and death for Americans age 65 years and older. Every year, about 35% to 40% of adults age 65 and older fall at least once. Keep an eye out on your visit home for any areas which might be made safer by making a small adjustment to furniture placement or by adding a safety device. Check on the following areas for any necessary updates so you will have good information to assist you in managing senior care from a distance.
- Medical Conditions: Do you know all of their diagnosed medical conditions? Ask about the more common medical issues which can escalate as we age, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hearing loss, weight gain, arthritis, forgetfulness. Remember that the earlier any medical condition is diagnosed, the better the chances of slowing the progression.
- Medical Providers: Do you know the names of all their medical practitioners, along with their contact information? If they are not seeing a geriatric medical doctor, find out if their doctor has discussed age-related diseases with them and conducted a mini-mental exam in the past year.
- Medications: Are the medications organized and are they taking them consistently? Taking medications at the proper time and as directed (with or without food) does impact the effectiveness of the medication. Find out if they have kept up on refills of all prescribed medications.
- Home Safety: If mobility or hearing or vision losses are becoming issues, find out what products you can purchase to make their daily activities easier. Is it time for a telephone with larger numbers and a louder ring tone? Is it time for an emergency-response bracelet or necklace? Do they have proper grab bars for their bath and toilet? Assess what areas of the home are becoming a challenge and find solutions.
- Driving: How is their driving ability? Ask the neighbors and take a ride with them yourself to find out. You can learn about the senior driving laws in each state at Caregiverlist.com and also learn about ways to address any driving safety concerns with your parents.
- Retirement Care Plan: Where do your parents want to receive care in the event they suffer a stroke, heart attack or fall? Usually Medicare will pay for short-term rehabilitation in a nursing home after a major hospitalization but find out if your senior parent would prefer to recover at home or in a facility.
- Guardians: Who has been assigned the Power of Attorney and the Power of Attorney for Health Care? Make sure everyone knows who will be in charge and where the family keeps these documents.
- Resources: Learn what care providers are available in the area, from nursing homes to senior home care agencies to assisted living communities. This way you will be familiar with the choices.
- Finances: What is the budget for senior care? Has a long-term care insurance policy been purchased? If not, what are the financial capabilities to pay for care privately? CaregiverList provides information on costs of care and ways to pay for care.
Being a caregiver can be daunting, but you can make it better by planning ahead.
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 Charlotte Bishop.