Vail Daily guest column: Caring for elders requires the entire family
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series.
Last week, I left off speaking about how to become an effective advocate for you aging loved ones. It is not easy work. To be successful, it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses.
I’d like to preface the following: while the nature and purpose of my business is to assist elders, spouses and families with some of the challenges of aging independently, this article is directed to the adult children who may be looking for guidance in helping their parents and/or aging loved ones.
In previous articles, I have shared many personal stories of my brothers and me, as we have experienced trials and tribulations in assisting my mom and her husband. Quite often, after each of these articles posted in the Vail Daily, I receive calls from readers sharing their own stories of helping their loved ones. Furthermore, readers have inquired about how they can educate themselves with assisting their loved ones and have asked for suggestions of how to do it collaboratively. I often suggest to them to speak with close friends who may have had similar experiences. As well, there are online resources such as the AARP, the National Council on Aging and The Association of Mature American Citizens which provide great information.
Because one of my brothers lives near my mom, he is the hands-on member of our team. He assists in scheduling, attending medical appointment, taking copious notes, posting the notes on Google docs and organizing and dispensing medication. He is a very detail-oriented person who can plan and execute as needed.
On the other hand, I am good at collaborating and communicating with medical providers. I ask many questions, sometimes too many. I make sure I understand the philosophies behind proposed treatments and anticipated outcomes. I see my role as the communicator among the medical providers and family. Together, my brother and I are able to achieve the organization, communication, questioning and execution necessary.
The challenge to being an effective caregiver and advocate lies in your ability to successfully manage your time, energy, personal responsibilities and capabilities. As in business, do what you’re good at and find people to do tasks in which you are challenged. Everybody’s family situation varies, and for many families, there’s no simple, single solution.
Things to Remember
While the following may sound intuitive, I find that too many people don’t truly appreciate the importance of these tools/tips when assisting loved ones.
• Observation: Take notice of the slightest changes is your loved one’s abilities, health, moods, safety needs and desires. Catching changes early can make all the difference.
• Organization: There many moving parts in managing a caregiving team. Making task lists and organizing the plethora of paperwork associated with health care, legal and financial matters is crucial.
• Collaboration and communication: This is imperative for effectively collaborating and maintaining communication between all persons providing care for your loved one. This includes family, lawyers, doctors and more.
• Ask questions: Educate yourself about your loved ones’ health conditions, financial and legal matters. Be prepared with lists of questions when meetings with doctors and other professionals. Don’t give up until you are satisfied you have the answers you need to properly advocate for your loved one.
• Be tenacious: Approach challenging issues from different angles. Think outside of the box. Solutions exist; you may just have to look at the problem from a different perspective.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, or 970-328-5526.