Taking good care of your loved one is a challenge in the best of times. But we are not in the best of times, and knowing how to make decisions on their behalf when you can’t guarantee stability in the short or long term makes things even harder. When it’s time to plan ahead, however, knowledge is key.
Before you can even begin to know what’s best for your aging parent, you have to first know where they are with their health and emotions. Where possible, spend a day or two with them looking for signs of physical, mental, or cognitive decline. If you’re unable to be with them beauce you are following social distancing advice, be prepared for some pushback. UNICEF explains that older adults often have difficulty staying away from their loved ones, but you can use services like Facebook Messenger and Apple’s Facetime to connect.
During your in-person or online conversations look for issues such as:
- Wearing the same clothing multiple days in a row. Seniors with health problems, like dementia and arthritis, often experience difficulty with dressing.
- An empty refrigerator. Vision, mobility, and cognitive decline often leave seniors questioning their ability to drive to the grocery store.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has left many seniors isolated, which can lead to depression. This can trigger a host of other secondary concerns including trouble sleeping or, in extreme cases, delusions.
Each of the above issues is an indicator that your loved one may need additional assistance. This might be something as simple as hiring a caregiver for weekly visits or could be the catalyst to open up the conversation about assisted living.
Once you have evaluated your loved one, it’s time to look at resources available to you and your family. By knowing what assistance is out there, you will better understand your senior’s long-term care options.
- Your senior loved one’s health care card is one of their most valuable assets. Medicare is likely their primary insurance, and it can help you keep your loved one healthy during and after the pandemic. Gather their documents, including recent medical bills and a preferred provider list, and compare their needs to their current plan. If you find they are spending more out-of-pocket or don’t have access to benefits they need, now’s a good time to look at different coverage options. The open enrollment period begins October 15, and you have until December 7 to make changes.
- Caregiver resources. As a caregiver, you may have had to make some lifestyle changes as well. This may have been finding a new job after years of retirement so that you could afford to supplement your senior’s needs or, more recently, you may have had to begin grocery shopping and running errands more than usual on their behalf. The American Society on Aging lists the AARP and Caregiver Action Network among some of the many resources available for caregivers. Use them. These organizations can provide you with the information you need to make better care decisions.
Talking It Through
Finally, before making any decision, talk to your senior loved one. Maintain an open line of communication, particularly if you are considering assisted living. Their input can help guide the decision-making process, particularly if you believe that assisted living is the best choice for them.
The pandemic has changed many things but not the need to care for and make decisions for our elderly loved ones. It is a challenge that many of us are facing head on. Arm yourself with knowledge. Get to know their needs, wants, and resources. In doing so, you put yourself in the best possible position to make choices, even in an uncertain world.
This guest post was graciously provided by June Duncan from Rise Up for Caregivers