Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness is a challenge unlike any other. A multitude of emotions and decisions are attached to the responsibility. A caregiver will find that not only is the life of the diagnosed loved one changing, but his or her own life changes as well. One of the most important considerations a caregiver will come across is what type of care they seek for their loved one and choosing the right care manager and health care group for them.
When caring for a loved one, there should be a care manager who assists in making the proper decisions regarding who joins the entire care group – which physicians, specialists, etc. A family member may want to assume this responsibility, or it may fall on the family member closest to the ill or aging loved one. However, the stress of being care manager can be very overwhelming and can result in a decline in health. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager. Someone who is not related but professionally trained and still very invested in your loved one’s health can be a very valuable member of your loved one’s care group. Gail Sheehy, best-selling author, caregiving expert and AARP’s Ambassador on Caregiving, once used the term “medical quarterback” to describe this team member.
Geriatric care managers, such our Aging Wisely team, can help:
• Assess your loved one’s situation and make recommendations when you have concerns about safety and wellbeing or are concerned about specific issues such as driving or falls.
• Locate the best possible home caregiving services to meet your loved one’s medical, social, emotional, familial, and spiritual needs and make referrals for legal, financial and other needs.
• Assist with benefits programs and resources such as Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran’s home care benefits and community resources.
• Coach home caregivers through issues like how to address concerns with your loved one or make a smooth transition to assisted homecare.
• Mediate family conflicts and help families gain a clear picture of the situation.
• Coordinate all parties involved in your loved one’s homecare and act as your eyes and ears when caregiving from a distance.
• Attend doctor’s appointments to provide advocacy and enhance continuity of care.
• Advocate for your loved one with healthcare providers and help you navigate the complex care system.
Palliative Care Options
During chronic illness, having an advocate such as a professional or family care manager will help in navigating the appropriate care. One fact families often discover is that the health care system is not designed to accommodate chronic illness. A person with a chronic illness may find themselves in a fragmented system whose focus is on treatment and cure, and doesn’t always serve their needs. Thus, emerged palliative care, a form of care or treatment focused on reducing the severity of disease symptoms, aim to improve the patient’s quality of care. There are two forms of palliative care in the U.S. – general palliative and hospice palliative, delivering care to those at the end of life. Palliative care is a viable option for avoiding pricey hospital visits that can cause a great amount of stress for the patient and their family. Ask your providers about palliative care options or seek out information if you feel this may benefit your loved one.
Another very important member of your care group is the person responsible for the majority of your loved one’s non-medical, physical care. For the same reason a family may turn to a geriatric care manager for help, a home health aide can be a big part of the solution to your palliative care needs. It often becomes too physically taxing and may be embarrassing for a person to receive personal hygiene assistance from their son or daughter.
Home Health Aides, such as those on the EasyLiving team, offer:
• Assistance with personal hygiene – grooming, bathing, dressing, etc.
• Home companionship – home health aides provide clients with company in the home as well as safe escort to social functions, community volunteering, plays, etc.
• Medication management – home health aides properly trained in medication assistance will make sure that your loved one takes his or her prescribed daily medications in the right dosage, at the right time and according to the doctor’s instructions. They will also document whatever medications were consumed on the daily caregiver report.
• Household tasks – home health aides will assist in household chores, meal preparation, assess the home for any potential risk areas for fall and injury and make suggestions for improving overall safety of the home, receiving deliverables, pet care, etc.
• Transportation assistance – providing transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, running errands, and shopping, as well as safely transporting clients to their regular social gatherings and activities.
• Vacation and relocation – perhaps a client needs assistance traveling to a family event out of state or you need help moving mom up to live with you. Some home health agencies can also provide travel escort and assistance, including flying loved ones to visit family, attend important family events and social functions, or move out of the area. They can manage all of your travel arrangements, assist you through security and provide companionship when traveling to ensure that you arrive safely and easily at your destination.