Vail Daily column: Show you care by advocating
Editor’s note: This is the second column of two parts.
Many adult children take it for granted that their parents and/or elder loved ones are currently living independently. However, it can come as quite a surprise and be rather shocking when the time comes to reevaluate that plan.
How each person and family deals with these circumstances is different — but not entirely unique. Some families may choose to bring elder loved ones into the adult child’s home or purchase or rent a nearby home. Other families may choose to have a sibling or some other family member move in to the home of the parent or loved one in an effort to assist them. Some families may consider having a home care agency assist, while others may consider assisted living facility options.
For families that choose to have elders live in their homes or nearby, or that have some one move into the elder’s home, the role and complexities of becoming a caregiver and advocate often can be both physically and emotionally taxing.
If you are one of the nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population that is currently caring for an elderly loved one, you may be all too aware that the learning process can be daunting and sometimes be like “drinking from a fire hose.” If you are not already within this 30 percent, you soon might be and may want to choose a slower and more methodical process. I definitely recommend the one step at a time approach.
MAKE A PLAN
Below are some suggestions of how to begin and organize a plan to help an aging loved one:
• Develop a plan before a crisis presents itself.
• Include the loved one in the conversation, if possible.
• Define the needs of the parent or loved one — what do they want?
• Develop a plan to meet the needs of the loved one with the input of family, friends, and/or outside help. This includes establishing realistic expectations and consideration of time for all persons involved.
• If money could become a divisive and contentious issue, hire a financial adviser or elder law attorney (the sooner the better).
• Encourage the communication of feelings.
• Convey appreciation and respect to everyone helping.
Lost in the system
It is easy to feel lost in the system while trying to help a loved one navigate health and medical needs, financial constraints, and socialization.
Our Visiting Angels office fields many calls from people of all ages looking for not only help within the home but also for help finding help. Within our mountain communities, locating resources is limited.
Here are some resources available:
• Senior centers: In the town of Eagle, call Carly Rietmann at 970-328-8896. In Minturn, call Pat Nolan at 970-328-8831. If you need help outside of our community, most counties have a senior center.
• Area Agency on Aging: Locally, you can reach Erin Fisher at 970-468-0295, ext. 107. Erin is a great resource within many of our mountain communities. In other areas, go to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website, http://www.n4a.org.
• Eagle Valley Senior Life: Call Wendy Miller at 970-977-0188.
• AARP: Vist http://www.aarp.org.
• The Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living: Visit http://www.ccal.org.
Your success in assisting your loved ones will greatly depend upon your ability to “gather the troops.” I know all too well that getting the time and attention needed from medical providers, nurses and therapists can be challenging. However, it is imperative that you are tenacious.
You will also find it of great importance to validate your loved one’s symptoms and find a method of collaboration and cooperation that fosters positive results instead of provoking stress and hard feelings.
Find medical providers who are sensitive to both your needs and the needs of your loved one. If the current medical provider is not responsive and does not collaborate with care after an office visit (continuum of care), find a more responsive provider. Providers should show a high level of concern.
There is no one way to successfully advocate. You can be, and will, be a successful advocate if you develop a way to:
• Educate yourself.
• Identify knowledge gaps in what you already know.
• Prepare for appointments ahead of time.
• Take notes.
• Find a sustainable solution.
• Make sure everyone is on the same page.
• Develop a team with all medical providers.
• Inspire and encourage.
• Overcome burnout.
Advocating for a loved one provides many intangible rewards. It will provide you the opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life. However, it requires good research, preparation and communication skills along with the ability to problem solve and locate resources.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.