Caregiver Action Plan

by Senior Care Society on 08/15/2011 - 05:03 am

Tag: Caregiver Advice

Whether you suddenly became a caregiver or it occurred gradually over time, you may feel unprepared, and overwhelmed by what is expected of you. These feelings, as well as other emotions—fear, sadness, anxiety, guilt, frustration, and even anger—are normal, and may vary over time throughout your time of giving care.  During this time you will also experience the unanticipated emotions of caregiving—forgiveness, compassion, courage—that can turn hardship into hope and healing.

 

Each family faces different circumstances, but there are some proven strategies can help you as a caregiver. It is best to educate yourself as best you can and develop a plan accordingly, knowing that it will change along the way.  Use the following 10 step action plan to get started on your way.

    1. Lay the Foundation
    2. A Medical Assessment and Diagnosis
    3. Education Yourself, Your Loved One and Your Family
    4. Determine Your Loved Ones Needs
    5. Outline a Care Plan
    6. Look at Finances
    7. Review Legal Documents
    8. Safety Proof the Home
    9. Connect With Others
    10. Take Care of Yourself

 

  1. Lay the Foundation

Discuss with family and friends what your loved one was like and how they are acting now.  It is important to determine a baseline to assist you with making decisions.  How long has these behaviors been occurring?  Start a journal to begin tracking these behaviors.  This information will help you get a realistic picture of the current situation and provide an important foundation for health professional. 

  1. A Medical Assessment and Diagnosis

Schedule a comprehensive medical assessment by a qualified care team that will look at both medical and mental health.  Consult your primary care physician if you are unsure where to start.  Many conditions like depression and drug interactions can cause dementia-like symptoms and can be easily treated and reversed if caught early.   There are also many new drug treatments that are very effective for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s if used in the early stages of the disease.  A confirmed diagnosis is key to allowing you to determine how to treat and care for your loved one.

  1. Educate Yourself, Your Loved One, and Your Family

Educating all who are impacted will help reduce stress, anxiety and fear of what is happening now and what the future holds.  Learn all you can about the disease and how it progresses by talking to health professionals, support groups, other caregivers and reading books and articles.

  1. Determine Your Loved Ones Needs

Each situation is different and needs to be evaluated to determine the level of assistance required for your loved one.  Use a care assessment tool to help determine what assistance is needed.  These tools focus on what is called ADL’s, Activities of Daily Living.  If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, you can ask your medical doctor to perform this assessment or other professionals such as a geriatric care manager or licensed clinical social worker.

  1. Outline a Care Plan

Once you have received a diagnosis for your loved one and completed an ADL assessment you are ready to determine how best to provide on-going care for them.  When formulating a care plan you may need the help of a professional.  Keep in mind that this plan will change over time.  When developing the plan, first consider what you are capable, willing and have time to do. 

Create a list of people that are your support team and what support they can deliver.  This would include siblings, family, friends, neighbors, church members and think how each person may be able to assist in proving care.   Write down the advantages and disadvantages that may be involved in asking these people to help.  Complete this list for your formal support group.  This is usually made up of paid professionals such as home health agencies, adult daycares or transportation services.

Use our Fammily Portal to document and coordinate your support team.  This will allow you to manage schedules and provide updates to your support team.

  1. Look at Finances

While your loved one may be reluctant to share financial information, it is critical to gain a full understanding or his or her financial assets and liabilities.  You may want to consult an attorney or financial planner to assist you through this process.  There are actions if taken early enough can help protect their assets for the future.

Develop a list of financial assets and liabilities: checking and savings accounts, Social Security income, certificates of deposit, stocks and bonds, real estate deeds, insurance policies and annuities, retirement or pension benefits, credit card debts, home mortgages and loans, and so forth. It’s best to keep all these records in one or two places, such as a safety deposit box and a home file cabinet, and regularly update them. Keeps a record of when to expect money coming in and when bills are due. You may need to establish a system to pay bills—perhaps you’ll need to open a new checking account or add your name to an existing one.

  1. Review Legal Documents

Much like their finances, it is important to get a understanding of their legal affairs to make sure their financial and health care wishes can be carried out.  These documents will give the assignee’s the legal authority to act on their behalf should the need arise.  Having these documents in place will help take the pressure off of you as well as providing assurance that you and others are legally prepared to act on your loved one’s behalf when needed.  Some documents you may want to consider are:

  • Will and Estate Plan
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Living Trusts
  • Advanced Health Care Directives

Other legal documents that you will want to find and place in an accessible location include Social Security numbers, birth, marriage and death certificates, divorce decrees and property settlements, military records, income tax returns, and wills (including the attorney's name and executor), trust agreements, and burial arrangements.
At some point, you may need to determine eligibility for such public programs as Medicaid. It’s helpful to speak with an elder law specialist. Information about low-cost elder legal services may be available through the Area Agency on Aging in your community.

  1. Safety-Proof the Home

One key to helping an impaired loved one is by maintaining a safe environment for them.  By creating a safe environment you are able to help them maintain their independence and protect them from further injury that could cause their overall health to deteriorate quickly.  Click on the following for more information on “The Consumer’s Guide to Home Safety for Seniors” to learn more about creating a safe environment.

  1. Connect With Others

Connecting with others can provide the essential emotional and social support needed for caregivers.  Whether you connect on-line via user forums or through support groups it will provide you a confidential place to vent frustrations, share ideas and learn new strategies for providing care for both your loved one and yourself.  As you look to join a social group, try to focus on the disease or particular challenge that your loved one faces.  This will provide you the maximum benefit.

  1. Take Care of Yourself

While this sounds silly, it is highly common for caregivers to ignore their own health of immediate families while providing care for a loved one.  Caregivers are at high risk for depression heart disease, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses.  These risks are increased if you are caring for someone with dementia.  Continue to follow your basic preventative healthcare to improve you health and leverage your support team to provide assistance when they can.  You can’t be everything to everybody and creating your own health emergency will only complicate you situation.