Planning for Elder Care

Elder care, also known as Senior Care, may encompass assisted living, nursing care, adult day care, hospice care and in-home care.  It is a known fact that as we age there is a general decline in health. In my book, One Caregiver’s Journey, this is described as the transition period.    Transition may come lightning fast through an illness such as broken hip or stroke, or over time as your loved one loses mobility or other chronic health issues arise due to normal aging, such as diabetes or arthritis.  In my case, I became my mother’s 24/7 full time caregiver shortly after she broke her hip.  She remained in my home home until her death 9 ½ years later at the age of 102.

How can we prepare for a sudden health event? Family members will recognize the need for more assistance and care.  One of the first considerations is to determine how much intervention will be necessary or if their loved one requires specialized care.  An honest, open discussion needs to occur to surrounding financial considerations for senior care options.  Specialized care is expensive.  Does the loved one have long-term care insurance, or will the care be private pay.  Where does the money come from?  If the elderly relative’s home is sold to pay for specialized care will it cover all their needs?    Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our elderly loved ones can be overwhelming, particularly if the transition results from a sudden illness.   First, and foremost, it is important to ensure in-home care be safe and nurturing.    Can modifications be made to the home which allow your elderly relative to remain independent with minimal care?  Before my mother returned home from the rehabilitation center after she broke her hip, the facility required certain home modifications be made to the bedroom and bathroom.

Assessing available options can be difficult when determining the type of care necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved one.  Here are some facts:

59.7 Million seniors were enrolled in Medicare Part A and B in 2018.

82% of adults think end of life wishes should be known – 23% have made them known.

$46,000 is the average income of caregivers.

  • Don’t let a sudden health event catch you by surprise to begin planning.
  • Don’t put off the tough conversations with your elderly relatives. In my book, One Caregiver’s Journey, I describe the conversation I had with my mother and her sister and how they made decisions based on previous family situations.
  • Don’t ignore the well-being of the caregiver (you).

How to address the options before and after a health event.

  • Age in place vs other senior housing – do you keep your loved one home or look at alternative living situations?
  • Come to terms with changes in independence due to health restrictions and limited abilities.
  • Be open to new possibilities like home care when family members need respite from caregiving.
  • Discuss changes and always:
    1. Conduct interviews;
    2. Know specific needs and tasks of agency workers;
    3. Discuss compensation and payment schedules;
    4. Request references;
    5. Do background checks;
    6. Look into the agency to determine what services are covered by insurance, and
    7. Don’t be afraid to terminate if the agency is not a good fit.

Family members need to be on the same page with the decisions and care plan.   Family members need to be honest when assessing what they are capable of providing and what help is necessary?  Perhaps it is childcare backup – some agencies provide a 2-hour window to help the family member as well as the elderly relative.   Home caregiving agencies offer such services as companionship, personal care assistance, safety and fall prevention programs, light housekeeping, pet care, medication reminders, cooking, shopping, transportation to appointments or more structured care for medical conditions.

It is important that everyone involved has peace of mind with decisions, particularly your elderly relative.  If your needs are non-medical, look for a service that offers versatile, flexible and customized care for the family’s comfort and for the safety and well-being of your elderly relative.

In Denver there is an organization (PASCO) which will train a family member to become a Certified Nurse Assistant and the become an employee of the agency and be paid to provide care to their loved one.   PASCO also allows family members to bypass the CNA training and become certified to provide In-Home Support Service.   For families encountering financial issues these type programs offer options for consideration.

Don’t be caught off-guard when a health crisis occurs to your elderly loved one.  Preparation is necessary to avoid becoming overwhelmed with the decision that are necessary.   These are not easy decision or discussions, but they are absolutely necessary.

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