Caregivers — Building a Team for Elder Care

According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Family Caregivers, more than 50 million people are providing help and care for an aged, chronically ill or disabled family member in any given year.

The average family caregiver is a 48 year old woman who works part or full-time and is still caring for her own children at the same time she is providing assistance to an older family member. That doesn’t leave much time in the day for much else as so many women who are juggling careers with caring for elders can testify.

The solution for stressed caregivers of any age or gender is to consider building a “team” of support people who can lend their help in caring for your elder.

Who might be on a support team for elder care?
Church friends, senior service providers, family members, neighbors, and volunteers are some of the people who can serve on a support team.

Before asking anyone for help, it’s important to take these steps:

  1. Make a list of the chores or services needed.
  2. What is most important and least important? Help with meals or help with food shopping? Household cleaning or trips to the doctor?
  3. When is help needed? Mornings? Weekends?
  4. How much time is involved? A trip to the doctor’s office might involve two to three hours with waiting time whereas a shopping trip might be done in an hour.
  5. Now sit down with your family member. Does he or she want help?
  6. If your loved one is ready to accept help, now is the time to evaluate what services can be done by family and friends as well as what services are available in the community.
  7. Now you’re actually ready to seek help from family, friends, neighbors, etc. With your list, you can provide information not only about what needs to be done but also when, how often, time expectations, etc. This information will make it easier for each person to know if he or she can help and in what way.
  8. Next create a calendar so that each person knows exactly what he or she is do and when. Provide a copy of the calendar for each “team member” and your loved one.

Keep in mind that it helps to make periodic contact with “team members” to learn if there are new concerns or changes needed in the schedule. And don’t forget to reward your team members on occasion – a thank you note, small box of chocolates or a plant can let your team know they are appreciated by both you and your loved one.

How and Why to Hire a Geriatric Care Manager

If you are concerned about the well-being of an older adult or are an older adult who is struggling with health or financial concerns, then you might want to use the services of a geriatric care manager.

Geriatric care managers are people who have knowledge and experience in working with older adults who may no longer be able to manage their own finances, need assistance in obtaining needed home care or health care services, making living arrangements, or making plans for long-term care needs or their future care needs.

A geriatric care manager is most often privately hired though some geriatric care managers might be found through social service programs or senior centers. The services of a geriatric care manager may seem expensive but these professionals know how to navigate the maze of health, social, legal and financial issues relative to the needs of seniors.

Here are some specific services which most geriatric care managers provide:

  1. Help in arranging for home-based services such as chore workers, health aides and transportation.
  2. Review of finances and insurance to ascertain if an individual qualifies for financial assistance programs.
  3. Assistance in locating an assisted living home, retirement community or HUD housing.
  4. Explanation of insurance benefits and coverage; qualification for services.
  5. Review of advance directives, living will, durable power of attorney.
  6. Help with obtaining medical services, communication with health care professionals.
  7. Locating community services that may be of benefit especially for the older adult who needs assistance to remain living independently in the community.

How can you find a geriatric care manager?
One excellent way to start your search is to contact your local senior center. You can phone the Elder Care Locator, a federally sponsored hotline or visit the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers.

Even if you don’t feel a geriatric care manager is needed today, it’s good to do some research now so that if and when the need arises then you and your loved one can be prepared.

Professional Allies in Elder Care

If you are caring for an older loved one or if you are an older adult, then you know that the maze of financial, legal and health decisions related to aging can be daunting. The most complex issues can often revolve around preserving and protecting one’s assets, housing decisions and expenditures for health care services.

If you are an adult child caring for a parent, then you might be confronted by siblings who question your decisions. If you are an older adult, you might find your decisions challenged by your adult children who question your competency.

There is help however for both adult children and older adults who want to resolve these situations both wisely and effectively. The help can come from a four person team of professional allies.

Who are these professional allies? They are people with the knowledge, skills and resources to help you address the life challenges of aging. Here’s a quick guide to who they are and what they do:

Elder law attorney. Use the services of an elder law attorney to create your will, handle your estate, administer trusts, provide for living wills, proxy and durable power of attorney arrangements as well as provide advice on how to protect or transfer assets.

Financial Planner. This professional provides you with the knowledge and tools on how to invest or use invests. A good financial planner will review your life needs and total financial picture rather than focusing on one area of your finances. Financial planners can advise about options such as reverse mortgages, long-term care insurance and other insurance needs.

Primary Care Physician. This is the person who can provide referral to other health care services, answer questions about medications and treatment goals, assist in determining health risk and identifying options such as home care, assisted living care or nursing home care. It is the primary care physician or a staff member working under the direction of the physician who is a respected advocate with insurance companies.

Geriatric case manager. Geriatric case managers can be found in some senior centers or hired on a private pay basis. They provide invaluable information regarding eligibility for services and can identify local resources for home care, chore services and transportation. They typically know the requirements and reimbursement systems as well as have in-depth knowledge of the services available to older adults in addition to understanding the complexity of Medicare or Medicaid programs.

You might need only the services of one or two of these people today but it’s never too early to start collecting names of those who might be called upon to serve as your professional allies in caregiving in the future.

Building a great team will take some research and time but you’ll find the benefits of working with knowledgeable allies will prove worthwhile in every way.

Choosing an Assisted Living Home

Are you or someone you love making the move into an assisted living home? If so, it’s important to do your homework before making a decision which could prove to be both costly and regrettable.

Here are questions to ask before signing on the dotted line:

  1. What costs are included in the monthly rate? What services are included or not included in this quote?
  2. What arrangements can be made if care needs change? Is there assistance from on-site staff? Can rooms accommodate wheelchairs or commodes? What is the level of independence expected of residents in terms of their ability to provide for their own care needs?
  3. Is there an in-house bank for small cash withdrawals or do residents utilize community banking services?
  4. What formal process exists for handling complaints?
  5. Is there a resident council to make suggestions or be involved in decision-making regarding facility activities?
  6. Are pets allowed? What about smoking?
  7. What kinds of recreational and social activities are provided?
  8. What policies and procedures are in place for emergencies such as a fire?
  9. What comments, recommendations or deficiencies have been documented by state inspectors? Ask to see written reports.
  10. What policies are in place regarding refunds, discharges or transfers?
  11. Who are the staff members and what kind of training do they have? What specific services do they provide? Are there background checks on all staff members?
  12. What guidelines or rules are in place regarding guests?
  13. Who is responsible for providing ongoing assessment of a resident’s care needs?
  14. How is transportation handled for doctor appointments?
  15. Under what circumstances might a resident be discharged involuntarily from the facility?
  16. What happens when an individual can no longer afford to pay privately for services?

Asking these questions in advance will help you find not only a suitable home but also help to ensure that it is indeed “home sweet home” for years to come.

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