Tips for First-Time Caregivers
America’s population is getting older. By 2030, the United States Census estimates that there will be more elderly Americans than there will be children. More families than ever will be struggling with caring for an elderly family member. So, if you feel overwhelmed by your new responsibilities, you are not alone. Here are some tips for you.
Learn All You Can About Your Loved One’s Medical Needs
People rarely get into old age healthily. About 80% suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 68% suffer from two or more. The most common medical problems afflicting seniors include Type II diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, hearing loss, vision loss, COPD, pneumonia, dementia, cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Doctors and social workers are swamped with work. They cannot keep up with all of the details about your loved one’s medical needs. It’s up to you to stay on top of their medications and appointments. Always contact your loved one’s doctor to ask about new treatments, even vitamins, before giving them to your loved one.
Be Your Loved One’s Advocate
Your doctor treats tons of people. They will not remember the specific needs of your loved one. Your loved one may no longer be able to argue for better care from doctors or hospitals. It’s up to you to take initiative when you think your loved one isn’t getting the care they need.
When your loved one gets out of the hospital, thoroughly read the discharge instructions. Often, some details will be wrong. You need to contact the hospital to correct the information. If your loved one has lost the discharge instructions, call the hospital for another copy. According to the Medicare Details of Participation, hospitals are required to keep records for five years.
Make Necessary Changes to the Home
Seniors are prone to falls, which can cause serious injuries and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 36 million seniors in America fall every year. One in five fall bad enough to require a doctor or hospital visit. Making modifications to their home greatly reduces the risk of falls.
Ask your loved one’s doctor if you can work with an occupational therapist. Many times, Medicaid or supplemental insurance will pay the cost. Occupational therapists help identify potential dangers in the home and suggest ways to help your loved one stay mobile. Devices such as canes, hand grips, wheelchairs, and walkers are essential. About 6.8 million need assistive devices to get around safely, so your loved one is not alone.
Keep All Paperwork in Two Places
Caring for seniors requires a lot of paperwork. These need to be hard copies that you can give to medical office staff, social workers, tax preparers, or anyone else that works with your loved one. Make several copies of everything. Keep it all in two places. The first is the main place with master copies of everything from bills to wills. This should include files for medical, legal, and financial information.
The second place is a small bag or purse that can be easily grabbed should your loved one need to go to the hospital in a hurry. It should contain a form of identity, like an old driver’s license or state ID, medical insurance cards, and a list of all the medications your loved one takes. Every time your loved one meets new doctors or specialists, they will ask for a list of medications.
Let Your Loved One Help
Loved ones are often still capable of making good decisions. When you are frustrated by the healthcare system, the IRS, or other problems, hearing your loved one’s point of view can be helpful. Think about it from your loved one’s point of view. You want to be able to make choices about your life, too. Whenever possible, let your loved one make the decisions.
Caregiving is not easy, and feeling overwhelmed at times is normal. You can find additional ideas for managing your caregiving role here, such as using technology, managing stress, understanding legal matters, and more. Replace the text in red with the MC link.