Stress Busters

It’s National Family Caregiver’s Month. That means YOU! Caregiving is stressful and overwhelming. It can bring very special moments too. Check out these tips for reducing the stress so you can enjoy more of those special moments.

Stress less when you’re organized, prepared and ahead of the next elder emergency. Follow these simple tips and you’ll take the stress down a notch or two.

Conversation

  • Have you asked your elders what their preferences are now and in the years ahead?
  • What, where, how, and whom? – are all valid questions for when (or if) they need more care.
  • Holidays are perfect times to sit down and ask these questions with the whole family there.
  • If they give you input now, you’ll be able to honor their wishes later.

Paperwork

  • Locate the important paperwork and have it handy at all times.
  • Powers of attorney – financial and medical. Do holders of POA have copies? Are they up-to-date for the state where your elders live and for the state where the POAs are residing?
  • Wills – up-to-date? Know where they are? Originals?
  • Forms filled out and sent to Social Security, Medicare and the Veterans Administration, allowing you (or some family member) to be a personal representative for your elders? In case you need to speak with these govt. agencies on your elder’s behalf, they do not accept power of attorney. Each agency has their own forms. See my book.
  • Advance directives filled out and current. All family members and medical providers have copies?

Sharing the Care

  • Are all family members participating in your elder’s care? Every one can do something!! ┬áHome maintenance, online bill pay, medication ordering, attending medical appointments, grocery shopping, care conferences. If they won’t do something, have them pay to hire help.
  • Repeat after me: EVERYONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN ELDERCARE.

Review their Medicare choices

  • It’s open enrollment time (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7). Review your elder’s Medicare current plan and compare options on Medicare.gov, including prescription drug plans as well.
  • Compare how they use the medical “system” to what their plan covers and what other plans offer. Be aware that Medicare Advantage plans limit which providers can be seen to those in network. Make sure you check out who’s in network and who’s not of your elder’s current providers.
  • Get a list of your elder’s current meds and compare to their current Rx plan’s formulary. Check out other plans on Medicare.gov to see if their formularies cover the current meds at cheaper prices or at more convenient pharmacies.

Build a Medical Binder for each elder

  • Include a list of current meds, current providers, summary of medical history, and chronic conditions.
  • Make copies of insurance cards, powers of attorney, and family member contact info. Don’t forget to put your elder’s contact info and birthdate in the front.
  • Get the most recent visit summaries from their doctors and place in there as well.
  • I have a blog on this called The Book Where You Look. Search my blog posts for it.

Take a Breather

  • Give up on perfection. Know doing your best is good enough. This is tough stuff and “perfect” isn’t really achievable – so don’t go there.
  • It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Rest up, take time for yourself and find resources.
  • Ask for help – from immediate as well as extended family, neighbors, friends, church members, community assistance and so on. You are entitled to have help and it’s out there. Stop for a moment and find it.
  • You are not alone. There are support groups for caregivers. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Assn, Parkinson’s Foundation, American Heart Assn, American Hospice Foundation and many others offer support and resources for family caregivers.
  • You are a caregiver if you are responsible for the care of your elder. Just because your loved one lives in a care community or has paid caregivers assisting them doesn’t mean you aren’t a caregiver. Grab the label and wear it proudly.

Eldercare is punctuated by emergencies. They will happen and there’s no way around that fact. What you can do is be prepared, be organized, and stay plugged in with your elder. This will reduce your stress now and, when the emergency happens, you’ll be able to stay in care mode – avoiding the enormous stress that operating in panic mode brings.

Enjoy the precious moments, laugh, share memories, and know that you are doing something really beneficial for your elder, your family and your community.

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