By Kevin Smith, President and COO, Best of Care Inc.
What’s your family caregiving challenge? Want to talk it through with me this month?
Whether you live next door or in another state, making sure that your elderly or disabled loved ones are OK is a huge responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you dedicate four hours a week to their well–being, or 40.
You. Are. A. Caregiver.
You are probably also juggling your commitment to your loved one with your own life. Stress is part of the job. But if you don’t manage it, everyone suffers.
I know where family caregivers are coming from. Our entire family, but especially my mom, my dad, and my aunts dedicated countless hours to caring for my grandparents while running businesses, working in demanding healthcare careers, and managing their own personal and family responsibilities.
Now, as a home care agency owner, I make sure that our homemakers, home health aides and certified nursing assistants follow individual plans of care for our clients – plans that rely on the family’s input.
November is Family Caregivers Month. It’s a time we honor the 850,000+ families in Massachusetts (and 42 million+ nationally) who take on the responsibility of caring for an elderly or disabled loved one. I know that many caregivers are not ready (or have the financial resources) to bring a professional home care aide into their loved ones’ home. I also understand that often, we simply need to talk with an experienced home care expert to sort through the issues.
Throughout November, I am personally offering all family caregivers who live in Massachusetts a 10 minute, no-cost phone or email consultation.
Want to chat? Call me directly at (617) 845-5342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org,
Also, in the spirit of Family Caregivers Month, here are some great tips that can help you and your family help your loved one!
Tip #1: Create a Secure Home
Have a safety assessment done. Hire a carpenter to install rails, ramps or other items that help your loved one maintain their balance. Remove anything on the floor they can get caught up on or trip on.
Tip #2: Install Monitoring Systems
There are many home monitoring options that are easy to install and use. These can be lifesavers when you can’t be at your loved one’s home right away and want to know everything is OK.
Tip #3: Support Mobility. Prevent Falls
It’s proven that practice with balance can help prevent falls as we age. Taking your loved one to a falls prevention class can do wonders for their balance and prevent life-threatening injury.
Tip #4: Give the Right Medications at the Right Times
If your loved one is forgetful, you’ll need to pre-load their medications and either call or visit them to make sure they take them. If you can’t be around to give your loved one their meds, and you know they will not remember consistently, you will need to find licensed professional support to come to the home and make sure they are taking them as prescribed. Depending on the need, home health agencies can arrange for medication visits by licensed nurses or certified nursing assistants.
Tip #5: Support Overall Fitness and Well-Being
Walking or gentle exercise will do more than help prevent falls. Activity is good for our muscles, hearts and minds. Encourage your loved one to move as much as they are able. Find seniors exercise classes they can easily get to, or drive them there.
Tip #6: Monitor (and Support) Hygiene
Is your loved one’s body odor becoming more pronounced when you visit? Are they keeping their home as clean as they once did? If you notice significant changes, it’s time to gently introduce support. It may start with doing the laundry or housework, or hiring an aide to help with these chores.
Tip #7: Check Vision Regularly
Loss of vision can lead to accidents. Not being able to see correctly can also lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. Make sure your loved one sees an eye doctor yearly, and gets re-fitted for glasses every time their prescription changes. Make sure they get checked for glaucoma and macular degeneration every year. If they already have these eye diseases, it’s critical that they take prescribed medications and/or get injections on a regular basis to prevent their vision from deteriorating further.
Tip #8: Assess Driving Skills / Coordinate Transportation
If your elderly loved one is still behind the wheel, make sure he or she is still a capable driver. Taking away a parent’s keys is tough, but necessary if they’re no longer able to safely navigate the road. If they no longer drive, help them find a senior transportation program or bus that serves the places they want to go. Get to know the routes and the drivers. Ask your loved one to tell you when they are going out, and where. Ask them to call you when they get home.
Tip #9: Support Medical Needs
Get to know your elderly parents’ or relatives’ primary care physicians. Accompany them on visits and talk to their doctors. If your elderly loved one is not capable of understanding their doctors or making decisions, engage an attorney and get your loved one’s written approval to become their health care proxy. This will enable you to make medical decisions on your loved ones’ behalf, choose or change doctors, or select health care facilities.
Tip #10: Keep Communication Open
Whether you have a professional home caregiver helping out or whether you’re going it alone, caregiving for an elderly loved one is stressful. You may be dealing with siblings who disagree with how things should be done. One sibling may feel like they’re doing all the work and aren’t getting support. Others may not want to bring in professional home care. These are very common scenarios, and there is no one right answer. In our experience, keeping the lines of communication open, no matter how stressed we are or how “taboo” the subject may seem, is in the end the best course of action.