During the past week, I walked into a client’s home to do a routine visit. I spoke with the caregiver then headed into the kitchen to greet the client. He is over 100 years old. His son was cooking him breakfast, as he does every morning. The elderly client was enjoying his breakfast so much he barely looked up from his plate. It was at that moment I realized how fortunate the client was to be so well cared for by not only his family but his whole care team including caregivers, doctors, physical therapists and care managers.
Safety is an important factor when determining what living option and support services are best for your elderly relative. When considering in-home care, there are agencies that can provide several hours of care or around the clock care when the family is unable to. There are companies that can install stair lifts, ramps, grab bars and many other solutions to help make the house safe. Technology is also advancing to be able to help monitor a senior remotely. In-home hospice can also be consulted when end of life needs are a consideration.
Finances are a factor. There are people who are unable to afford 24 hour care at home or their medical needs are too complicated to be able to be cared for at home in which case a long term-care facility may be an option. Consulting the appropriate professional for advice on long-term care options and visiting facilities are important before placing your relative in a nursing home.
Whether your loved one stays at home with supplemental care or moves to a long-term care facility they need to be safe and be able to get assistance whenever they need it. How can this be accomplished? Communication with the home care agency or nursing home is critical. Home care agencies are required to provide regular supervisory visits to their clients and should have someone on-call 24/7. Nursing homes have care plan conferences that family members can attend. Regular visits to a loved one in a nursing home, whether it be from family, friends or a care manager will help ensure they are getting the proper care. If an issue comes up at a nursing home that cannot be resolved with the facility consult an ombudsman. An ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, group homes and assisted living facilities who is trained to resolve problems as well as answer questions about long-term care facilities.
Attending doctor’s appointments with your elderly relative is also important. An adult child or caregiver may be able to report symptoms an elderly client is experiencing or take notes during the visit that can help coordinate care. There are support groups available, by the Alzheimer’s Association for example, that can be an important place for caregivers to not only receive support but also get ideas and advice on how to care for their relative. Whatever the situation, playing an active and ongoing role in the care of your elderly relative is essential to their well-being once they are unable to advocate for themselves. So, even if you can’t make breakfast for them every morning there are so many ways to watch over them to make sure they are getting the best possible care.
Roslyn Paine, MSW, LSW
DignityFirst Health at Home Care Manager