The work that I do in the hospital has made it abundantly clear that most people don't really have a clue when it comes to beginning to help their aging parents and loved ones prepare for the future, let alone what to do when crisis hits… It's my hope that this post will encourage you and give you useful tools that you can practically implement now and in the future.
As a nurse Case Manager in the ER of a large hospital, I come in contact with patients and families every single day who are somehow broad-sided by the inevitable responsibility of making decisions about care and needing help with aging parents and loved ones. The truth is, the resources available to help guide you through this process are not all that clear and/or readily available. Part of my job in the hospital is to help families in crisis know what their options are and assist them in getting the resources and care that they need.
I have to be honest that it is extremely common to have families bring their parents, grandparents, or other aging loved ones in to the hospital at a complete loss for knowing what to do… they have exhausted all of their resources, be it physical, financial, or just time and simply “can't take care of mom anymore”… The saddest thing to me, is that in most of these cases, getting to this crisis point really could have been avoided by having some healthy discussions early on, and knowing how to prepare for the future.
I think everyone of us can agree that we want our loved ones to be able to remain well and independent for as long as possible, but how do you prepare in the meantime? Are there steps you can take to assure that your loved one is prepared for the process of aging and needing a higher level of care (whether that be in the home or in a skilled nursing facility)?
For these very questions, I reached out to Caroline Ventry, who works as a Community Relations Advisor with A Place for Mom, and asked her if she would be willing to share some of her best tips with us. She's been an excellent resource to me in my position, as she helps families secure safe and appropriate places for their loved ones to live. She has a finger on the pulse of our geriatric community that I would never be able to keep track of, and has been such a huge help to so many of my patients and their family members! A Place for Mom has helped over 800,000 families in finding care and housing for their loved ones since it began in 2000.
I always tell my patients…
“A Place for Mom is not a place… it's a resource. You can call them, tell them what you are needing (a skilled nursing facility for dad, a personal care home for grandma, etc), and they will help you find a place that is appropriate and meets your needs. And, best of all, they're a free resource!”
Obviously, things can happen that prevent us from being fully prepared for crisis situations, but there are some wonderful suggestions that Caroline's been gracious enough to share with us here that can help us to help our loved ones prepare for the aging process as well as knowing how WE can be prepared so the burden on OUR families is lessened when the time comes.
The key is beginning these critical discussions early. I'm probably a little more comfortable than most people discussing some of these challenging topics, and I'm grateful for that… It's allowed me to see the necessity of having these discussions early (and frequently, if necessary). We are all headed down the same path, and at some point we will need to be asking these questions of ourselves… so wouldn't it be better to be prepared, to lessen the burden on your families?
I want to encourage you to use these tips to help you process and know how to help your aging loved ones prepare for the future. I also want to encourage you to take action in some of these areas yourself… whether you are 25 or 65… these tips are valuable and can help you have a road map for the future that can guide you, and enable you the security and peace of mind that your loved one's wishes for end of life care are being met. What a gift to be able to give to those we love the most!
Top 5 tips to help with aging parents & loved ones as they begin to prepare for the future
(from Caroline Ventry, Community Relations Adviser with A Place for Mom)
1. Get all financial, personal and medical documents organized and accessible.
2. Have a Plan “A” and a Plan “B” in place.
Some examples would be finding a great home care company that can come to the home if they need help after a surgery or a fall, or an alternate place to live such as assisted living or memory care in case of a crisis. Most families have Plan A, but as we know things can change and we always scramble for Plan B.
3. Although it may sound morbid, parents should go ahead and plan all of their funeral arrangements so that their kids don’t have to do it.
It is so sad and stressful when a loved one passes away. I have had 2 friends where their parents arranged everything and they actually were able to celebrate their mom’s life because they didn’t have the burden of trying to get everything planned and arranged in a few short days.
4. Consider getting a Long Term Care Insurance Policy for them and for yourself.
Be sure to read the fine print and ask what it covers exactly per day and which type of care. Should you purchase long-term care insurance?
5. Begin inquiring (and being more mindful) of their health & well-being.
Here's a list of some questions to help guide you…
- Are they getting the proper nutrition? (look inside the fridge and pantry)
- How about exercise… are they just sitting around all day watching TV?.
- How are they managing their medications on their own? If they don't already have one, get them a pill box. (A note from Sarah: Here is another resource that I thought was really cool called PillPack, they are a full-service online pharmacy that prepares medications in sealed packets for daily use. You can check out PillPack.com here.)
- Are they socially interacting with others (isolation is the number one cause of elderly depression)
- Should they still be driving?
- Can they manage their finances on their own? Are they being taken advantage of by internet scams, etc? (Look at their checkbook and see what type of checks they are writing)
- Start de-cluttering their home if they have lived in it for many years, or you will have to do it all alone one day. Make it a fun experience for the whole family.
I plan to address more on this topic in future articles, but in the meantime, please let me know if you've found the information here useful by commenting below.
If you are currently finding yourself in a place where you're needing more assistance, you can contact Caroline directly at (866) 429-7456, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And be sure to check out A Place for Mom's blog here for more useful tips & resources for helping elderly loved ones.
photo credits: depositphotos.com/bst2012, alexraths, belchonock