- What do I do first? I became a caregiver overnight and am super stressed! What matters most first?
What matters most first is YOU! Caregivers are generous with their time. Caregivers are loyal family members and dedicated volunteers. Caregivers are hard workers who often carry a heavy load. That’s BEFORE there’s a health crisis. So the very first thing for any new caregiver to do is make a promise to ASK for help and don’t do everything yourself. Doing everything now will result in patient and family dependency that will sap your sanity later on. You want to give yourself permission to build a wraparound team to help you — and your loved one!
For the patient you always make your first assessments based on safety. Is the person safe? Is the home environment safe? Is the person you’re taking care of capable of driving? How are they walking? DO you need to help them prevent falls? Take a quick inventory. Talk to the person who you’re starting to help. For tips on having hard conversations or some coaching, reach out to us!
- I noticed my grand/parent is getting forgetful. What should I do first?
We often minimize forgetfulness and blame it on everyday life. In reality it can be stress related, trauma induced, or a physical decline. Ask your grand/parent in what ways they feel different lately? Have they noticed any changes that concern them? Once started a conversation about forgetfulness, suggest checking with the doctor the next time they have an appointment. Whatever you do, please don’t belittle them or make fun of them for not remembering something. They know more about their loss than you may realize.
- I am a caregiver for a stubborn person who doesn’t take my common sense advice. How can I handle him/her?
Physical safety issues must be addressed first. Call 911 or contact a doctor to assess the needs and rate of decline.
After that: People are born with a will, a desire to choose, a sense of autonomy. So it’s natural to want to defend it. As we lose our physical abilities, we cling to other things we still have – like the right to make our own decisions about our bodies, our finances, our homes, and our futures. Try not to spend energy judging the choices of others. Instead grab a notebook and start a caregiver journal. This allows you to notice patterns and changes to bring to the attention of the community and health care team. Or after a while you’ll be able to say things like “Hey Mom, last week you said you wanted help with finances, but yesterday you said you wanted to do it yourself, and today you’re mad because my brother Joey didn’t do it right. I’m confused. What way do you think would work to get it done best?”
- Am I allowed to have the medical records of the person for whom I care?
Yes, and here’s why you want to ask for a physical copy of those records at the time of the visit! While it doesn’t happen often, if it happens, you don’t want to be caught without valuable information needed for care. Every now and then there are problems with the internet or systems “go down”. If you have a copy of a previous report, then you’re still able to move forward with care and this will help the medical staff too! Once in a while, some information doesn’t get into a patient’s portal record or medical chart. When you’re verifying those records, you have a physical way to correct it. Rapidly Verifiable information is better (and may save a life) than information that has to be verified!
- Where can I find transportation for my parent(s) in my area?
We’re sorry to report that this is a huge gap in most communities from access to cost. Some areas are covered well, others not so much. Currently there are people in your local, state, and federal think-tanks trying to crack this nut. In the meantime, budget this cost for public transportation, Uber or Lyft, private drivers, and/or get a willing team member to help support. When asking a friend to drive, please coach them on any needs getting in and out of cars, walking or any other relevant issues.
- All the bills are piling up! How is it best to manage?
When you reach the point that someone else needs or wants help with the bills, make sure you have permission! Do you have Power of Attorney (POA)? If there is a family financial advisor, consult first with them. If there isn’t and there’s no designee, call a family meeting and decide how to best handle it. There are also third-party businesses that can handle this for you. Don’t let long-term care or insurance lapse or have anyone say they don’t matter. Pay these diligently to get back some of the money that has been paid into the program!
- What are the most important documents I need to find first?
Power of Attorney, Advance Directives, Drivers license, Insurance cards, Long-Term Care Policy Information, Funeral home agreements, Veteran discharge papers.
- Should we age in place or sell the house?
This is a tough one! Costs are significant. Safety is paramount. The patient’s rate of decline is an important consideration! There are costs to aging in place, to moving to an independent living community, assisted living facility, personal care home, or a skilled nursing home. Insurances and rules differ. Some places can ask you to leave when you run out of money. Others have funds to cover your shortfall when you run out of money. If you’re tapping into a benevolence fund make sure you know the costs to the caregiver. Knowing the details of the benevolence fund may save you lots of out-of-pocket expense as a caregiver.
- Dad is a veteran. I hear there are lots of benefits. What do I need to do?
Make sure your Veteran is enrolled in the Veterans benefits programs. Enrollment is the first step and the earlier you accomplish this the more help you can get! You’ll need the veterans discharge papers to start this process. Please do this before there’s a crisis. Once enrolled it’s much easier to access available help. There are many organizations that support Veterans like the local VFW, or nonprofits like Wounded Warriors.
- I have a neighbor who has no one to help her. What should I do?
Call your community connector or your local health and human services office.