Most people know that it’s helpful to plan for the future. But for many caregivers, it is difficult to think about a time when they (not their loved one) may face a crisis or medical illness. Today, 30 million households are providing care for an adult over the age of 50 – and that number is expected to double over the next 25 years. So everyone who has the responsibility of providing assistance or care for another, (whether it is full-time, part-time or just occasionally) should start considering options if they become ill or unable to continue to provide care.
Start the Talk: As a caregiver, it is easy to believe that we will never become ill – because we just don’t have the time. Unfortunately, it is often the caregiver who has a medical crisis before the person receiving care. It is important to plan. Let family members or others know all about the things you do for your loved one. Write schedules down if you can. Have a list of contacts easily accessible in your loved ones home. Information about which doctors they see, contact information for any agencies that might be providing assistance or neighbors who can be called in a pinch. Prepare a list of medication. Communicate with family. Anyone who might have to be asked to help should be aware of the needs. You don’t want people to be surprised and unprepared if they are called upon to assist.
Form your Team: Decide who will take on specific responsibilities. Is one person able to pay the bills? Maybe another can coordinate medical care? Who will provide day-to-day supervision? Make sure they have the tools that they will need to be able to step in. Durable powers of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate paperwork often cannot be created in a crisis and should be prepared well in advance.
Make a Plan: How will the family deal with a short term crisis? Is there a place your loved one can stay for a short period of time if you have an illness or injury? Is there a family member who can come and step in for a short time? What if the need is long term? Discussions regarding preferences need to happen well before a crisis. What really matters is that every family has the opportunity to talk about creating a caregiving plan for their loved ones based on the needs and wishes of those who will be receiving the care.
Communicate: Make sure your team stays informed regarding changing needs. It is important to update the care plan periodically. A person who was willing and able to step in at one time may have had a change in circumstances (a move or illness) that makes them no longer able to carry out their assigned duties. Stay connected to your team to make sure that you and your family are prepared if the primary caregiver can no longer carry the load.
Care planning can be a tedious task. However, if a crisis occurs, everyone will be grateful that they have been prepared and know how to keep their loved one safe.
For more information, watch this recorded livestream of and SMH talk on DIY Advanced Care Planning, led by a Tidewell Hospice representative.