Check up with Check-ins

Don’t have all the players gathered for a sit-down care conference? Well, take your show on the road. Go visit your elders’ care providers and get an update from them on how your elder is doing, what their needs are and what goals the provider has for the near term.

Last week, I blogged about how to have a productive care conference (CC). I gave you a list of the players who would attend, what topics it might cover and how to advocate for your elder productively during the CC.

Well, sometimes, you can’t get the players together for a meeting. Some providers are not located near where your elder receives care. Some providers are on contract with your elder’s facility or with Medicare and the players change often. At times, it may be your schedule or location that prevents an in-person meeting or CC.

In those cases, I would recommend a Roving Care Conference (RCC).

Here are some ideas for a successful RCC:

  • If your parent lives at home and has a home health aide, drop by at the end of their assigned shift and walk them out to their vehicle. Ask them for their observations regarding your elder’s health or cognition, specifically if they have seen any drastic changes. Ask if you can do anything to help them provide care.
  • If your elder lives in a facility or senior residence, make an appointment with the nursing staff member responsible for your elder’s care. Before the meeting, make a list of questions and/or issues that you’d like to discuss. A couple of hints to make the meeting productive – say something positive, ask for their observations, listen carefully, take notes and find out if there is anything that needs to be addressed that you can take care of.
  • If there is a room where therapy is given, drop by and see if you can make an appointment to see your elder’s therapist(s) or if you can attend their next therapy session. If they have a moment after the session, you could check in on your elder’s progress.
  • Drop by the kitchen of the facility where your elder lives and check with the dining staff. Ask them if your elder is coming to meals.  Are your elders wishing for anything in particular that you could help obtain?  Ask if the kitchen staff is able to execute any special requests that you or your elder have given.
  • Check in with the activities director at your elder’s residence or at the local senior center; find out what activities your elder enjoys as well as what kinds of activities are offered. If there is something your elder might like and/or is reluctant to join, ask the director for their help in engaging your elder.
  • If you have special instructions for an upcoming event or medical appointment, stop by and visit with the person who handles transportation at the facility.
  • It is always a good idea to stop and chat with the front desk receptionist, the housekeeping staff, the director of the facility and anyone else who has an impact on your elder’s care. If you should need their help in the future, they’ll know who you are.
  • If your elder lives at home, checking in with a neighbor or friend who lives nearby gives you an opportunity to hear their observations and get any feedback about additional care needed or issues they might have observed.
  • A doctor or dentist’s office can fax, email or snail mail a visit summary if they have a copy of your medical power of attorney.   That can help you stay engaged with your elder’s medical care. Hospice nurses can give you updates via phone or email as well.
  • An RCC is always more fruitful if you take along goodies. Share some chocolate kisses or some mini-muffins. Take a bag of oranges to the nurses’ station. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to say “I understand your importance in my elder’s care and I thank you for the work you do.”

If you can’t check in with any of these folks in person, engage with them on email or via phone. When my mom had some physical therapy ordered for a short time period, I was not able to visit with the therapists directly. So when the coordinator called me to set up the visits, I requested a phone call once per week from the nurse or head therapist. The phone calls gave me an opportunity to check on Mom’s progress versus her goals and to find out if I needed to encourage her in any way.

RCCs play an important role in the care of your elders and in your own sanity in two ways:

  • They give you a snapshot into how your elder’s care is going, what changes might be occurring that you need to attend to and keep you involved in a productive way.
  • They show the care providers that you are interested, you are paying attention to the care your elders are receiving and that you are appreciative of the good care they provide – they’ll keep providing good care if they know those three things.

If your elder is hesitant to have you involved in their care for any reason, RCCs allow to you be aware of their care without being formally involved. Wink, wink.

All of this adds up to either preventing the next emergency or lessening the impact and severity of the next emergency. Because – we all know eldercare is punctuated by emergencies. Staying ahead of the curve saves time, money and marbles.



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