Haims: Successful caregiving involves a plan
One of the most important parts of my job involves the initial assessment with a client. Occurring most often at a client’s home, the assessment provides an opportunity for the client to learn a bit about what we do and how we do it. It also provides the opportunity for us to learn about the client’s specific needs and their perceptions of having a caregiver assist them.
The initial assessment is a really important part of the successful development of building a plan to assist someone — without it, we would not truly learn what the client’s wishes are, nor would we learn about the client’s personality, interests, values, and passions.
Another invaluable part of the initial assessment is learning about the client’s ability and desire to assist themselves and, if existing, what their family and friend support team may look like. By identifying all those willing to help and be a part of the care team, we can minimize stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Most importantly, a team can be built on the strengths of each team member.
Building a care team to support a loved one is not intuitive nor is it something that should haphazardly be put together. Rather, there are many moving parts that need to be addressed. Here are some basic suggestions that will hopefully be a starting point.
Steps to build a care team
Building a care team involves understanding who can assist, their availability, and their comfort level with certain tasks. One of the first steps is to use a calendar to gather all the appointments, errands, chores, social events, and even financial needs that may be required. Take the time to determine how long each task requires, its frequency, and who may be the best at accomplishing the need.
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Following up on the implementation of a calendar should clearly define what is being asked of each person. For example, if one task is grocery shopping, does the person assisting know what foods are liked and disliked? Would a grocery list be helpful? Or, for the person who may assist with bills and finances, can they sign checks or go into the bank to get funds? Is there a tool in place for checks and balances, something like a spreadsheet or journal book? The last thing a care recipient or supporting friend/family member wants is to question how finances are being used/managed.
Once a support team is developed, a contact list of medical providers should be put together. It is important to have everyone assisting know who to call should a concern arise. As well, it is important to have anyone communicating with a medical provider fill out a HIPAA release. The HIPAA release will enable the person(s) designated to speak to medical professional permission to do so. Unless a HIPAA release is executed, medical professionals will not be able to communicate your personal information with those you have allowed to speak on your behalf. Most medical offices can provide a HIPAA release form.
Medication management/reminders are also a very important component of assisting someone. Too often we find that people are not consistent in taking medications prescribed by their medical professionals. Sometimes people simply forget, sometimes people sleep past the time they should have taken their meds, and sometimes people forget to either renew their prescriptions or pick them up from the pharmacy.
Assisting with medication reminders can include getting prescriptions filled/refilled, making sure medications are taken as prescribed, communicating with medical providers about dosages, and understanding medication purposes and side effects. It is not uncommon for the person receiving assistance to be unaware of medication side effects they may be exhibiting — consider balance, exhaustion, hunger, and speech.
Now that a support team is defined and those needing permission to communicate with medical professionals has been completed, it is time to consider what may be needed at the home to make life easier. For example, you may want to look around the home for safety concerns. Are there any throw rugs or carpets that could cause a tripping hazard? If needed, have walkers been adjusted properly for the person’s height and does the person who needs a walker understand how to use it? (A walker should never be used when going up/downstairs.) Would a bath bench be helpful in assisting with bathing? Would grab bars help in the bathroom?
A care team can come in many forms that can include family, friends, neighbors, volunteers, community organizations, and medical providers. It’s important that all those helping have a clear understanding of their role(s) and that communication is seamless.
If you could use some education in learning what may be needed to assist someone at home and/or putting together a care team, there are resources to help. Most often, nurses are great resources. They are often aware of, and have contact information, for many service providers. A hospital discharge planner can also assist. And, you can always call our office — there is no fee.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.