By: Jennifer Watson-Choi
Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply call someone who would assess our situation, offer solutions to our care concerns, help us access the right services, involve other family members and resolve differences, and then monitor our progress and help us stay organized and effective in providing in-home care for our loved one? Yes, yes, the answer is YES!
Well, these people do exist and they are called Care Coordinators, or more often, Care Managers. They work for companies such as Premier Homecare Services, care facilities, hospitals and others offer their services independently. If you haven’t the access or means to a care manager, you can still learn how to think and act like one, reaping the many benefits for your loved ones and yourselves.
Care management is a profession, and like any profession it takes training and practice to become well skilled. You may not acquire this level of skill, but you can at least become an expert at your own unique situation while also taking control of the care of your loved one.
1) First, you need to educate yourself on the nature of the disease or disability which your loved one is dealing with. Get a wide range of opinions, treatment options and what the most recent research is showing. Visit the local library and ask for help searching medical journals, check online (be wary of the plethora of unreliable information online), ask your doctor, find an association that supports what your loved one is suffering from. Now that you’re equipped with the most current information and treatment options, you can move forward.
2) Next, assess the present situation. Can your loved one function independently or is it time to bring in homecare help? Who is available to help in the care? Is the home safe and easily accessible? Are there adaptations to the home that can be done and at what cost? What responsibilities do you have such as work, home, volunteer, and how can you balance? How is your health? Gather all financial resources, insurance, wills and end-of-life documents.
This assessment will paint a realistic picture of where you are and how you can move forward in caring for your loved one. Keep this handy for the next time to provide a benchmark.
3) Hold a family conference. Get a handle on who is available to reasonably help, who is not interested and what financial resources are available. This meeting may help prevent misunderstandings down the road.
4) Keep good, organized records of everything involving your loved one’s care. Start a binder and include dietary specifications, emergency numbers, medication schedule, back-up support people, and other important information. Include a journal into which you can write down significant occurrences such as falls, changes in behaviour and reactions to medications.
5) Join a support group to help you when the times get difficult, because they will get difficult.
6) Initiate advance planning for difficult decisions. We have no guarantee as to how much time lies ahead and difficult decisions are all the more so once our loved one is in the midst of an emergency. Discuss wills, advance directives, power of care, power of attorney and so on. What will your loved one do if something happens to you? Not a pleasant thought, but one that needs careful consideration.
7) Establish a family care schedule outlining each person’s responsibilities and when they need to do them.
8) Approach difficult decisions like a professional. In the midst of difficulty, try to approach your caregiving role from a true care manager’s perspective, setting your emotions aside.
This is the best way to make challenging decisions regarding your loved one’s care.
9) Consider available services such as those offered by Premier Homecare Services to assist your loved one to remain independent for as long as possible. Allow our professional caregivers to help your family.
By: Jennifer Watson-Choi
It’s the most wonderfully stressful time of year! Yes, the time for holiday cheer, family gatherings, presents, big dinners and cocktails is here. For those who are caring for a dependent loved one, the holidays can be a dreaded time for multiple reasons. Here are a few to mention:
The pressure of added responsibilities around the holidays can be overwhelming. Caregivers may overextend themselves to try to create a memorable experience for those they love. Routines are changed and that can make a big difference. Find simpler ways to give more meaningful gifts. Consider writing letters, giving used books or make compilation CD’s. Cut down on the greeting cards you send and instead of personalizing each one consider a generic letter that can be given to everyone. During this stressful time, don’t cut back on the time you spend as respite in efforts to do other pressing tasks. Family caregivers need respite during the holidays, too!
The realization that the holidays will never be the same due to a loved one’s decline may bring a rush of emotions from frustration, anger and grief. This is natural. Holiday times come with a lot of expectations and family caregivers may find themselves grieving for the days that used to be. The annual marker of the holidays can cause a caregiver to reflect on the previous holiday season and the changes that have happened since. The holidays are also about hope for the New Year, but this can be difficult for those caring for loved ones with terminal illness or disease. Be grateful that you’ve spent another year together and hope for what is realistic in the upcoming year. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this may be the last holiday together, as it is much better to remain optimistic and grateful.
If your loved one is homebound and you’re providing the homecare, the celebrations of the season can still be enjoyed. If you’re feeling too overwhelmed and tired by the thought of planning a big family celebration, ask everyone to bring the holidays to you. Or change the traditions this year – who says turkey pizza can’t be holiday food? Decorate the house, play seasonal music, have family drop by and bring food and small gifts when they do. You can also play simple activities that involve everyone such as watching a holiday movie, singing songs and playing board games.
Consider homecare for the holidays and beyond. Use the time that family is together to discuss important care concerns such as bringing in a homecare provider for extra assistance. Consider bringing in extra help for the holiday season. This can help lighten the load and help you to focus on creating a memorable holiday season if that is indeed what you’re seeking.