Friday, 20 September 2013 10:32
Transitions: Preparing for What's to Come
The following is the first in a two-part series on preparing to care for an aging loved one. The second part will follow in next month’s issue of Families TODAY. Whether it’s a celebration, a move or some life-changing event, it takes some planning and preparation to get yourself ready. So, where do you start? Are you completely overwhelmed with just the thought of how and where to begin the process that lies ahead of you? First things first, take a deep breath and tell yourself that there are people out there who have experience and know how in just about every aspect of life’s ever changing sets of circumstances. It’s up to you to research and ask for resources, referrals, advice and help. Never be afraid to ask for guidance—you will be amazed how many people are not only willing to help, but happy to do so. Caring for an aging parent, elderly spouse, domestic partner or close friend presents difficult challenges, especially when a crisis hits and you are suddenly faced with the responsibilities of transitions. Perhaps your aging mother fell, is hospitalized with a broken hip and needs to go to a rehab facility or nursing home to recover. Caregiving can also begin as a result of unsettling mishaps and warning signs that indicate a need for long term elder care. Perhaps your elderly spouse has wandered off and gotten lost several times, or a long-time friend has lost a lot of weight and rarely leaves home. You may be the only person to step in and become the caregiver. Or, you may be the linchpin of a network of family members and friends willing to help care for your elderly senior. Whether you are in the middle of a crisis and decisions have to be made quickly, or are planning ahead for an elderly loved one because of unsettling warning signs, you must figure out what kind of help your loved one needs: long-term elder care? Or help for only a short time to recover after a hospital stay? Are problems undiagnosed but correctable? For example, prescription drugs’ interactions and side effects, Vitamin B12 deficiency, dehydration and other treatable causes are often mistaken, even by doctors, for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. According to Consumer Reports on Health, “Any new health problem in an older person should be considered drug induced until proven otherwise.” If their problems are not correctable, what elder care living arrangements are available for your loved one? What nursing care plans are most appropriate? If they are able to remain in their own home, what kind of elder care services do you arrange? Is assisted living preferred over a nursing home? What challenges does your loved one’s condition pose? What is the best way to access community elder care resources? How will you manage it all and still maintain a life of your own? This series will walk you through the first steps of elder care–whether your loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, is recovering from a broken hip or you are trying to figure out Medicare benefits. It is a primer, a source of both information and comfort. Each elder care situation is unique, of course. Your loved one’s medical history, financial resources, personality, relationships with potential caregivers, proximity to services and other factors all determine the best approach to take. Take a deep breath. This may be the most important advice you receive throughout the caregiving journey. All along the way, remember to pause from time to time and collect your thoughts. Clear your mind and relax. It may be difficult, but it will help sustain your spirits and prevent you from sinking under the weight of caregiving burdens. Learn as much as possible about the medical condition afflicting the senior. Contact related organizations and associations for information about the disorder. Study the symptoms and progression of the disease so you can anticipate what might come next. Call a family meeting. Early input from them will facilitate communication and decision-making down the line. Allow all family members a chance to express themselves and their feelings about what should be done. Consult with everybody and anybody. Talk to friends, neighbors, acquaintances – anyone with experience in caring for an elder. In reaching out you will assemble a mosaic of information about how to proceed and what to expect down the line. You will learn that others have been there before and found their way through – though sometimes with great difficulty and sadness. Talk to your senior. This isn’t always possible, but it’s best to allow them as much independence as circumstances permit. Remember that the caregiver’s role is to help them maintain as much control over their lives as feasible, not take it away; this includes allowing them to make their own decisions unless the decisions become harmful to them. The more you can consult with them, consider their desires, and truly respect them, the smoother the transition in your relationship will be. Clare Colamaria is the Founder of A Senior’s Choice, LLC., a company who specializes in elder placement and resources throughout the Capital Region. Her column appears monthly in the Your Home section to help caregivers on their journey with elderly loved ones.If you need assistance with any of the subject matters written about in this article please call Clare at (518) 424-2527 or visit our website at www.aseniorschoiceonline.com.