“I wish I had met you when…,” I hear some variation of this phrase weekly (sometimes daily) from people I meet through networking and personal events. The statement derives from people who have experienced the chaos associated with caring for an elderly loved one with little to no idea what resources were available to assist them or the person they were caring for.
REALITY CHECK: At some point, we have either been, will be or know someone who is the caregiver of an elderly relative. Depending on our life expectancy, we will also become an elderly person in need of care and resources.
So, what happens when caregivers have to make decisions with no preconceived notion about available resources or are making decisions in reaction to a crisis? All decisions made from the point of the “incident”, the fall, hospitalization, _____ (you fill in the blank), are done in REACTION to the situation.
Without a proactive plan in place, these very important, potentially life altering decisions will be based primarily on the emotional response to the event or the direction given by a medical professional (often one who is meeting your loved one for the first time). Regrettably, reactionary decisions can have unexpected consequences that may be in direct opposition of the person wishes.
I realize that in our busy world, if something isn’t happening to us this instant, then we aren’t going to seek out information and resources concerning the “what if’s” in life. Unfortunately, in the case of elder care, lack of a “what if” strategy can lead to uninformed decision-making when a crisis strikes.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. There are preparations that can be made TODAY for the “what if’s” in life.
Ask yourself and those you love these pro-active “what if” questions and begin the effective process towards preemptive crisis management:
- If I cannot make health care decisions for myself, who would I want to make those decisions? (See FYI about POA)
- What guidelines would I want my POA to follow in determining what care was given? (i.e., nutrition, resuscitation, end of life comfort/care. See 5 Wishes or ask your local hospital if they have copies of POA/Living Will forms)
- What if I could no longer manage my finances, who would I trust to manage them for me?
- What if I can no longer care for myself in my home?
- What if I needed long-term nursing care, would I want that in home or in a facility?
- Do I have enough money to cover the cost of long-term care? (Long-term Care Insurance?)
- What if I need short-term rehabilitation, where would I want to go for that care?
- What do I need to have in place to make sure that if one of my “what if’s” happened my family would know what I wanted done?
- What if _____ (Fill in the Blank)
I know that asking these questions can be awkward, however; if and when the crisis strikes, you’ll be glad you did.