Caregiving from a distance Part II
So you have come to the realization that Mom needs help, serious help; but where should I begin?
Just like a seasoned Doctor, you evaluate and triage the top 10 things that need your “immediate” attention and tackle them first. If the house is on fire, throw water on it, if the electricity was turned off, call the electric company, pay the bill and move on.
Now there may be more than 10 things to tackle, there may be more than 20 things to tackle but always evaluate and triage. Be prepared to re-evaluate from time to time as you may uncover more pressing matters as time goes on so it is imperative that you are able to change course at a moment’s notice.
First- put out any fires and ensure that your loved one’s surroundings are safe and secure. Then proceed to make an appointment with their primary care doctor. At the appointment, be vocal and alert the doctor to what you have witnessed and experienced; if need be suggest a geriatric psychiatric evaluation if the changes you have seen warrant it.
Be respectful yet persistent that all you are doing is for the betterment of your loved one.
You have to be honest with yourself and evaluate if your loved one is safe to stay in their current living situation. Can they stay there with some assistance: nursing, physical therapy, assisting with bathing and dressing, preparing meals, shopping etc. Would they benefit from institutional care or could they stay at home with 24 hour live-in care.
If they are going to stay home, look to have an in-home safety audit done. Items like grab bars in showers or tubs, area rugs, lighting and security can all be addressed. Also consider letting technology assist you when you can’t be with your loved one. Personal emergency response units can be installed, some even come with a GPS option if wandering is a concern to you. Even in-home cameras can be installed and monitored through an internet connection and can be viewed from a lap top or even from a smart phone if you are on the move.
Keep you loved one’s nutrition in mind as well when continuing to tackle what it will take to keep them in good health. There is always strength in numbers so speak with family members or neighbors and create a plan to have meals prepared and portioned out so they may be easily heated at meal time. Consider a grocery delivery provider if getting to the store for your loved one is difficult.
If necessary, consider a reputable agency that can help provide some of these activities of daily living (ADL’s) if you or your extended family cannot assist in this manner. Many times a few visits per week providing some cooking, cleaning and laundry, can make a huge difference in the health and happiness of your loved one.
Creating a list or outline of what is needed and prioritizing it is key to this process. Tackle each item and move to the next but also realize that your loved one’s needs may change with little or no notice, so being flexible in executing the items on the list are important too.