By Gail Glockhoff-Long, GolderCare Solutions Unlimited, LLC
If you are serving as the care advocate or helper for a loved one, these 5 tips can make your life a little easier.
- Keep Records—Keep a small notebook with a plastic zip pocket for medical cards, list of doctors, list of medications, and phone numbers. Record doctor visits with dates, issues, and outcomes into the notebook. Write down and date other changes you notice like behavior or cognitive changes, falls, or wounds. Having a record with dates can help doctors track down the cause of a problem. Did hallucinations start soon after a med change? It is also helpful to have all medical notes in one place for hospital runs. Come prepared, listen to what the medical team has to say, but remember that your job is to be the voice and advocate for your loved one. Stand your ground if needed.
- Ask Questions—When visiting your parents, ask questions about family memorabilia and their childhood while they are still able to answer and record the answers in your notebook. Ask about the history of family heirlooms. Ask stories about their childhood and life. There is a little book titled “Mom, Share Your Life With Me” that gives a different topic for every day of the year to spark a memory and conversation with space to record the story. Cherish your opportunity to document their legacy and memory for the next generation.
- Be the Adult in the Room—You want to honor your parents and respect their wishes but there are times that their wishes are no longer realistic and you need to become the adult. Is staying in the family home that dad loves still safe? How well are they navigating the stairs? If Alzheimer’s is involved, does the person wander? Turn on the gas stove? Can they get to safety quickly if there was a fire? Sometimes you have to be the adult and determine it is time for a move. Enlisting an independent professional may be helpful with this step.
- Know the Staff—Talk to the caregivers, nurses, and administrators. Let them know you are there visiting your loved one. If the nurse chats with you frequently, they tend to keep you better informed of any changes. And it also never hurts to have a bowl of candy for staff in mom’s room or the nurse’s station. Attend the care plan meetings. These are designed for you to exchange care plans and concerns with the staff. Attend the Family Council meetings at your facility. This is where you learn the bigger picture of the facility like why they cannot use bed rails or that they added an outdoor sensory garden and how to access it. It is also an opportunity for family members to ask questions.
- Know When to Ask for Help—Ask other family members to help. Let them organize the birthday party or doctor visit. For those actually providing the care at home for their loved one, seek help before you physically endanger yourself due to their care needs. There are other times when more than sibling or friend help is needed—when professional expertise is the answer. A professional care advocate can help guide you through the medical and placement systems and help to access public benefits to pay for the care needed. Sharing responsibilities with appropriate professionals allows you to take a breath, reduce your stress load, and become a daughter again.
GolderCare Solutions is an independent advocacy group for seniors, the disabled, and those that care for them. GolderCare has offices in Moline and Bettendorf. You can reach GolderCare at (309) 764-2273 or visit www.goldercare.com for more information.