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Managing the Caregiving Maze - Aging Wisely

Most people will find themselves in the role of caregiver at some point in time. You may not even identify with the role of caregiver right now, but realize you have concerns about an aging parent or have started the process of discussing Mom or Dad’s care needs with your family. Here are some useful steps for anyone embarking on this journey…

1. Get a baseline of the situation. You may wish to make some notes about the individual’s personal history, background and patterns; health history; recent health concerns and changes; current functioning level; pattern of when concerns began and changes you’ve observed. You may need to ascertain some information and observations from others who have been involved. A baseline can help you provide better information to professional providers. It will also give you an idea of what some of the immediate concerns might be and specific examples to illustrate them. If you see the care recipient daily, notes about changes, history and dates can help you with the big picture.

2. Get a good medical evaluation and diagnosis. Find appropriate professionals/specialists to ensure you have gotten a thorough evaluation and have a team of professionals you can rely upon moving forward. A comprehensive geriatric assessment proves useful in most cases as well, for a complete picture of the situation, needs and options.

3. Educate yourself and share information with other family members. Learn about the diagnosis, read up about what you might expect and learn about resources. A reliable place to start is with the disease-specific organization that applies to your loved one (such as the Alzheimer’s Association or National M.S. Society) or your local Area Agency on Aging. We maintain a list of some valuable website resources as well.

4. Examine finances as an important piece of the care puzzle. Pull together vital information about your loved one’s financial situation and factor this in to care planning. A good care plan should include a budget, as well as a review of available benefits and what might be needed in the future. An additional aspect of financial planning includes managing finances for a loved one who is no longer able, and assisting with paperwork and organization. The role of “Administrative Manager” can quickly become overwhelming, so consider how the family can best manage this and other duties. For more about financing eldercare, resources to assist with daily money management and organizing financial information, visit our Eldercare Payment Concerns section.

5. Review legal documents/needs. Advance directives and estate planning documents help ensure your loved one’s wishes are carried out as he/she desires. Find out if your loved one has completed documents. With major life changes such as health issues, schedule a review appointment to ensure documents are up to date and sufficient. If your loved one has not completed any such documents, make it a priority to get an appointment for advice.

6. Evaluate the environment. Conduct a home safety/falls prevention review or seek a professional to review the environment and make recommendations. If you are considering moving a loved one in with you or choosing a care facility, a professional consultation can help you evaluate the options and minimize the unexpected.

7. Outline a care plan, which pulls together all of the information above, available resources and realistic expectations. Review periodically and update. Consider family meetings to get input and discuss, where appropriate.

For resources to help with specific senior care concerns, we invite you to read our previous posts Eldercare Solutions and Professional Resources to Help Family Caregivers.

If you need help with eldercare resources or senior services, we’re here to help! CONTACT US today about caregiver consultations and geriatric assessments.

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