by Katharine Ross
Letting go of autonomy and control isn’t easy for anyone – including senior parents, spouses and loved ones. Trust is the most important component of the caregiving relationship. Without it, the senior can’t communicate their needs comfortably and the caregiver can’t communicate their concerns adequately. Discovering and fully understanding the wishes of a senior can help positively build the necessary sense of trust.
A natural place to start a conversation can be discussing the ways others have aged and what went right and wrong with those scenarios. It might be easier for Mom to acknowledge that her sister felt ignored spending day after day home alone than share her fears of becoming lonely. This could present a casual way to bring up other alternatives Aunt Agnes could have taken advantage of to make aging more comfortable.
Going to doctor’s appointments together and making it fun can help further build the relationship. Bring favorite magazines or crossword puzzles to read/do together while you wait. Ask your favorite senior if they’d like a second pair of ears to hear what the doctor has to say. This can often be helpful when trying to recall instructions. Ask your loved one if they’d like you to take notes on their behalf. Reminding them that you’re there to make them more comfortable may be a good way to approach all of this. This can help open the door to discussion about access to their medical files.
Keeping your purpose centered on being a joyful and loving part of the senior’s life will help you notice things that can be indicators of health concerns. Keep in mind their changes in appetite, balance, interests, schedule, energy level and personality. It would be smart to record any major changes and consult with their primary physician.
A physician will be able to guide the two of you to possible causes and explore some solutions. This should help you two narrow down which types of resources can be the best fit.
Being prepared helps you and your favorite senior stay ahead of the game. A good thing to do is to collect all pertinent information about your loved one including their birth date and social security number. Make sure to keep all of this in a private, secure place to protect their identity.
Your loved one will feel more prepared if they have the proper legal documents and tools in place. These can include: a will, durable power of attorney for finances, durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. This is just one more step in making sure that their wishes are carried out regardless of the situation. If you do not feel comfortable handling your loved one’s legal matters, an attorney will be able to answer your questions and assist you through the legal process.
During all of this collection of information, it is important to have many open and honest conversations with your loved one. Gaining an understanding of their wishes; whether they wish to stay in their home, or move into a community; will help you make decisions you’re both comfortable with. Many seniors find that moving to a community nurtures their naturally outgoing personalities while giving caregivers the peace of mind of 24 hour care. Other seniors feel much more comfortable staying in their own home and making modifications along the way to allow for this. There are many reputable home care agencies and home modification companies out there to support seniors that stay home. Some offer support with just light housekeeping services while others offer skilled nursing care and rehabilitative services in ones home. Exploring your options together before they are needed helps you both feel more empowered and prepared. Whether your favorite senior stays home, or moves into a community the records you have kept will help ensure they receive the very best care.
Care giving can offer immeasurable rewards getting to know your parent or family member better, learning more about your family history, finding things in common that you both enjoy, etc… Your favorite senior can be a joy to get to know better, but could also benefit from having some senior professionals involved in her/his day to day life. There are services available to support you two as you go through each transition: modifying a home, selling a home, managing a move, packing and unpacking, conducting an estate sale or just installing a hand rail in the bathroom. Don’t feel overwhelmed, you don’t have to do everything alone. These professionals have been through the transitions of aging countless times and are here to help! Find them all as you peruse a copy of Seniors Guide Magazine or online. Additional articles and checklists can be found online in our Library on Seniors Guide Online. It was created to save you time and to make this process a smooth transition for your loved one and your family.
COLLECT THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION AS WELL: Names, phone numbers, and addresses of your loved one?s physicians as well as pharmacy. If the senior has specific arrangements with certain doctors and/or pharmacies, this information needs to be acquired.
Make copies of the senior’s health insurance cards (front and back), medications and dosage, drug allergies, copy of his or her Medicare care (if over 65 years of age). Medicare has prepared an online manual, Medicare and You 2011, which can be downloaded at http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf This manual includes Medicare benefits, rights and protections, frequently asked questions, and information about coverage on new drugs.
Gather a list of all the medications the senior is taking: vitamins, prescription drugs, herbs, nutritional supplements, over-the-counter drugs, dosage, and instructions for using them.
If the senior has had any procedures, both major and minor, compile a list of the dates and results. Include all vision, dental, and physical exams as well as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
If able, generate a complete medical history for your reference. Include all medical illnesses, diagnoses, and conditions. This should expand to the medical histories of the senior?s parents and siblings.
If available, a copy of their medical power of attorney and any DNR’s or Living Wills