Imagine your parents have just been rushed to the hospital and are incapable of providing any of their medical or insurance information. Fortunately, the ER admissions nurse found your business card in your mom’s wallet and phoned you. Do you really want to tell the nurse you can’t help? Do you really want to go to your parent’s home and ransack it looking for critical paperwork and information?
Wouldn’t you rather be prepared to respond in the most efficient and helpful way possible? What if you live out of town? Having this information available will allow you to provide crucial assistance at a critical time. Getting organized today helps you be prepared for a less stressful tomorrow.
By far, the most important thing you can do to help your parents is to talk to them about issues that affect their well-being and the well-being of the family before something tragic happens. These include and are not limited to issues of medical care and intervention, legal and financial business, end-of-life issues, inheritance designations and advanced directives.
Prepare a notebook or consider scanning information onto a small flash drive to carry with you. Keep an emergency information kit in your car and medical information in your purse or wallet at all times. Post medication and physician information on the refrigerator, which is the typically the first place an emergency team coming to the house will look.
Legal planning includes making sure wills and trusts are written and are up-to-date. In case of a recent relocation to another state, consult a professional immediately to make certain documents are recognized in the new state. With your parent’s permission, assign durable power of attorney (DPOA) to easily access medical, bank and insurance records.
Medical planning involves designating the healthcare surrogate/proxy, an individual who can be
proactive to make health care decisions if the parent becomes unable to do so. Create a current
medication list including the name of the drug, dosage, frequency, what it is for, prescribing doctor and pharmacy and relevant phone numbers, and any allergies. When accompanying a parent to a doctor visit, supply this list and verbally review with the doctor as needed. Check to see if your parent’s city/county has an emergency responder program.
Know where financial records are kept. This includes bank name and accounts numbers, checkbooks, safety deposit box keys, and investment accounts. Know the contact person
and/or phone number.
Know where Insurance records are kept. This includes Medicare number, life and health insurance providers and policy numbers, and social security number.
Safety at Home
Mostly, our parents want to continue living at home even if they develop an illness or debilitating condition. Safely living at home is critical. Know that most homes are not constructed with the needs of the elderly or disabled in mind. Beginning mobility problems requiring the use of walker, arthritis and it’s resulting problems, the high risk of falling and balance related problems in the elderly, make us realize that homes can be quite unsafe. Consider having a geriatric care manager or certified aging specialist come to the home to evaluate your loved one’s physical capacities and needs in relation to the physical structure of the home. Consider having an alert system connected to the phone. For a small monthly fee, your parent can instantly get assistance and an emergency team can access the home.
Focus on Your Health
Make your own health and well-being as a priority. Do whatever it takes to eat healthy, exercise, sleep 7-8 hours each night, and laugh often. Keep up with your personal interests and friendships as this is paramount to your mental health. When caregiver demands are high and seemingly unending, joining a support group with individuals who can offer feedback on assistance, local resources, and are perhaps the only people who understand just exactly the range of emotions you go through each day, can be immensely beneficial.
Look for Help
Create a team of caring family and friends to be your helpers. Your religious or spiritual community may already have a system of volunteers. Get to know your neighbors and help each other. Check the non-profit resources in your community. Consider hiring a home companion or a skilled in-home provider or a geriatric care manager who can help take over if you need help or need a vacation!