Most of us will care for an elderly family member sometime during our lives. As our culture ages, more and more family members take on the responsibility of helping senior loved ones age at home with or without live-in assistance or transition to assisted living. No matter what the circumstances, it is important to communicate with your loved one’s registered nurse (RN) or geriatric doctor. If you are not sure know where to begin, here is a list of 7 areas to discuss in planning for your elderly family member’s golden years:
Consider your senior loved ones eating, sleeping, and activity levels. Are they relatively stable? Have there been changes in their ability to bathe, dress, feed, or ambulate? If not, let the doctor know.
- General Condition
This area includes many factors such as breathing problems, bleeding, digestive issues, rashes or other skin issues, etc. Make note of any abnormal signs or major changes in what you expect. Skin breakdown often occurs in the elderly population and should be brought to the Registered Nurse or doctor’s attention right away.
If your elderly loved one complains of pain, try to get a description of the type of pain, such as: throbbing, stabbing, pounding, dull, aching or tingling. Also check how long the pain lasted, was it set off by certain activities and does it diminish or increase with certain movements or with medication. These descriptions will help a doctor narrow down what might be happening.
Doctors need to know what medications elderly patients (or patients of any age) take and if the schedule for taking them has remained on target. Watch for any side effects or changes in response to medication. If you have a companion/sitter or Certified Nursing Assistant caring for your senior adult, make sure you ask them to let you know right away if they notice your loved one missing their medications.
- Mental and Emotional State
Although these are two distinct areas, it is important to pay attention to both. Does your elderly loved one display changes in memory and in what ways? Is your loved one emotionally engaged: laughing, having fun, expressing frustration in appropriate ways? Letting the doctor know about changes in these behaviors is important. If your loved one has a caregiver/sitter or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) already, the caregiver can help put words to any changes.
- Spiritual State
Has your senior loved one changed spiritual practices lately including frequency, questioning their faith or speaking of “life beyond?” If so, how is this perceived by the patient? Feel free to communicate this to the doctor but also to his or her spiritual advisor. Finally, be aware if any spiritual expectations or practices might be contrary to how the doctor treats patients.
As a family caregiver or companion, it may seem overwhelming to be an effective advocate for your senior loved one, but being aware of challenges and changes will help a doctor treat your senior loved one more effectively. While you’re at it, be sure to secure a medical power of attorney in order to have full disclosure from all your senior loved one’s doctors. It will make the challenging situation of caring for them at least a little bit easier. (source)
Completely overwhelmed? There are professional geriatric care managers who specialize in elder adult “senior care” advocacy who are available to assist with the overall management of your senior loved one’s medical and non-medical care. Care managers can communicate with the doctor, home care agency, home health, assisted living, skilled nursing facility on your senior loved one’s behalf. Care managers will even assist with setting up any of the above services. Additionally, care managers are typically senior care experts themselves, so they are able to recommend additional gerontology care providers for specific disease-specific challenges. So if you are overwhelmed with the total responsibility of caring for your loved one, know that care managers are available to help.