At some point, you are likely to be responsible for the care for an aging parent, relative or friend; or have their Power of Attorney (POA).  This may not be very difficult until your aging loved one has a serious fall/injury; or they are in the early stages of dementia; or can no longer walk; or can no longer personally care for themselves. 

The following powerful solutions will help you get ahead of what could be a daunting and overwhelming curve.  There is hope and below is a plan to get you started.

One – Face Reality Head On

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There comes a time when you need to accept that your loved one can no longer care for themselves and can no longer be home alone. Even if they are telling you that “everything is fine” and not to worry, there may be an inner voice telling you that this not the case. Listen to that inner voice and seek resources that can assist you in making the right decisions for your loved one. 

I remember when I had to face this reality with my mother after witnessing signs of early stages of dementia.

Two - Obtain a clinical assessment from the right Healthcare Professional. 

It is very important to discuss these concerns with your loved one’s physician in order to obtain a professional clinical assessment but keep listening to your inner voice if you feel something is not right.

I remember that I had to research the right clinician for my mother because her primary care physician kept telling me that she was just aging and probably depressed.  My inner voice was telling me that this was not the case. So, what did I do? I found a geriatric practice that finally provided a diagnosis that my mother had early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia. I was correct that it was more than just her aging and depression

You see, geriatricians have extensive training on the healthcare of elderly people, and they are skilled in making the right assessment and helping to find the right solutions for your loved one – i.e. medications, in home healthcare, or rehabilitation through a skilled nursing facility.

Three - Get the Legal Paperwork Required

  • Power of Attorney (POA) or Letter of Attorney - allows you to represent or act on another’s behalf in private, business or legal matters. It is a written document prepared by an attorney.
  • Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare  - a legal document that appoints you to make medical decisions for someone that cannot make it for themselves.
  • Living Will - a legal document specifying the type of medical treatment wanted or not wanted when someone cannot make the decision for themselves. Examples are do not resuscitate (DNR), mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration.

Four - Safe-Proofing the Home

The homes of seniors and physically challenged individuals need to be set up for their safety.  You may have to hire a general contractor to install grab bars in the bathroom, for example. Or, for two level homes a chair lift may be needed if they can no longer go up/down a flight of stairs.  Many people also install nanny cams to keep a closer watch and be able to quickly respond in an emergency.

However, if an individual needs someone to assist with common “activities of daily living” (ADLs) (things like bathing/showering, dressing/grooming, incontinence, feeding, meal preparation) then a care professional (not you!) needs to be hired as suggested in the next section.

Five - Finding the Right Care Professional

When family caregivers can no longer care for their loved ones all the time, it is a smart decision to hire professional help who are trained to help the elderly and infirmed.

Though there are a few ways to identify quality care professionals or certified home health aides (CHHA), the best route to take is through a reputable home care agency rather than hiring unlicensed caregivers. 

Care Professionals through a licensed agency are pre-screened, background checked, and fingerprinted by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Health Firm Division.  Additionally, home care agencies must carry liability insurance, surety bond, and workers compensation insurance. If something goes wrong, it’s the agency’s responsibility and a professional licensed agency will be able to quickly respond. 

One of the biggest advantages to working with an agency, is if a care professional is sick or not the right fit, a replacement can be found quickly.

Six - Inspect What You Expect

Now that you’ve established a plan to assist your loved one, it’s important that you oversee what is happening to your satisfaction.  Set expectations with the key individuals, whether it’s the social worker, geriatrician or home care agency.  Then make frequent check-ins by phone, email or in person, if possible.  You are the advocate for your loved one.

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Written by Liz Johnson of Always Best Care Senior Services.

To learn more about what Always Best Care has to offer, visit: www.AlwaysBestCareWayne.com or call: 201-212-4310