According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, "adult children who care for their aging parents live an average of 450 miles away."
The caregiving system and its sources are extremely fragmented. There is not a one-stop shop or organization to gather all the appropriate information needed to make key decisions regarding caregiving.
If you are considering possible caregiving options for an elderly loved one, one of the first things you need to consider is securing a geriatric assessment. The price of a geriatric assessment ranges between $100 and $500. During the assessment, an assessment professional identifies possible issues your elderly loved one may be demonstrating. Those issues may include:
• Does my parent need help shopping and cooking meals?
• Is my parent showing signs of dementia or depression?
• Is my parent forgetting to take medication or missing doctor’s appointments?
• Does my parent need assistance driving to appointments, stores, church or other activities?
A hospital discharge planner or your loved one’s doctor can recommend a professional who conducts geriatric assessments. Also, the following organizations can recommend someone to conduct a geriatric assessment:
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
Local Area Agency on Aging
Enter your zip code in the "Eldercare locator" to locate the nearest agency on aging.
Visiting Nurse Associations of America
Once you receive the results of the geriatric assessment, you will need to discuss possible caregiving options for your loved one with other key family members. If you decide to coordinate the all the care yourself, you will need to hire a team of medical specialists, a nutritionist, housekeeper and other professionals (personal organizer, driver, home-care aids, etc.).
Most importantly, you will need to manage and monitor the team of providers.
In regards to medical care, decide who will be the main contact to stay in touch with your loved one’s doctors. Also, have other relatives or friends take your parent to the doctor’s appointments and the grocery store.
For doing-it-yourself caregivers, schedule for regular check-ins with other family members. Distribute duties with other family members every evening. Depending too heavily on one family member will cause burn-out, frustration and anger.
Someone needs to be the point person for any part-time home-care workers, housekeepers and/or personal organizers.
Consider purchasing the Lifeline medical alert system, if your parent lives alone. If there is an emergency, your parent presses the button which immediately notifies his or her emergency contacts.
Finally, it is a hard subject to discuss but seriously consider obtaining power of attorney. An elder-law attorney can assist with powers of attorney or you can purchase a copy online. Power of attorney allows caregivers the right to make legal, financial and health care decisions on behalf of their parent. Securing power of attorney will save you time and frustration at a later date. For example, some doctor’s offices will require a power of attorney in order to discuss a parent’s medical records with the caregiver.
Reviewed June 13, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton