To the editor:
From 1999-2012, I served in the senior healthcare network of SWFL. Recent family developments put me on the other side of the table, to speak, and I became the adult child caregiver. I was very lucky to know the basic rules of the road and the ropes. But nothing prepared me totally for the road to be traveled. It's not an easy one, and I have learned a few lessons. I'd like to share in order so others may benefit from my lessons learned or my take-away moments. These are items that I had educated others on well in advance of my own challenges. But nothing fully prepared me for what was about to happen or my lessons learned.
1) Have a valid power of attorney, health care surrogate, and living will documentation in place for every loved in your family who is over the age of 18.
a. Make sure that every financial institution and health care provider has a copy on file.
b. Do this before a medical emergency takes place.
c. Take the original with you to a bank and have them copy it, fax it to credit card companies, utilities providers, etc. Do this before an emergency happens.
2) Make sure one other person knows who has the POA documents, and keep a copy on hand and the original in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box, - again make sure this location has a copy of the POA and you are on the account, named as POA.
3) If your loved one ends up in the hospital, do not assume they will be offered a bath, in fact do not assume the sponge baths provided bedside or chair side include removing your loved one's socks or stockings. As simple as it sounds, do not assume one thing. Don't assume even that your loved one was admitted to a hospital for the right diagnosis. Accidents happen, and if they were recently in the hospital, and released within 30 days, they could accidentally have been even admitted under a previous diagnosis. Again, assume nothing!
a. See 1 & 2 above. Make sure the hospital knows you are the POA and the Health Care Surrogate.
b. They may not be offered a shower, and if they are offered a sponge bath make sure their socks/slippers are removed daily and heels are checked for pressure sores.
c. Make sure that your loved one has on compression stockings or special socks to help eliminate the chance for blood clots.
d. If your loved one is "bedridden" ask for a spirometer and respiratory therapist consult. Lying down too long can lead to pneumonia. It is not "the old man's friend" and can be in many cases prevented.
e. Make sure if someone is "bedridden" or a "fall risk" they are turned often in their beds. This will help prevent the horrendous "bed sore."
4) Before an accident or injury, have a game plan on where your aging loved one wishes to have their rehab/therapy (skilled nursing facility-recuperation), which agency do they prefer if they can go home with Home Health (Medicare covered, not the same as private duty home care which is often times out of pocket unless one has a long-term care insurance policy)
5) If you are in your 40s, please look into the cost of Long Term Care insurance. This is a separate plan that should, God forbid, you need to move into a facility for care, or you need home care services, it will pay for you. You will have far better options to choose from if you take care of your plans now.
One does not need a medical background to be on top of things, but to know where pitfalls can take place. One can't predict or prevent every incident, but actions on the front end, before an injury or illness, will also leave you more in the drivers' seat.
I wish everyone a very wonderful 2014, and to other adult children with parents who are aging, I hope you never have to travel the same path millions of us do every day, but please, get your plan in action now, so that if a crisis does happen, you will be prepared.
Eileyn Sobeck-Bador, APR