Elder Care Planning
Before you can develop a meaningful plan for elder care you need to carefully assess each situation. The assessment should begin with opening up the lines of communication with your elders. They may not want to talk about it, but it is essential. Without effective and honest communication there can be no assessment and no plan. Family dynamics are frequently difficult at best. The best approach is to listen carefully to your elder’s thoughts and ideas and with no preconceived notions or ideas. Start with a clean canvas and attempt to come up with viable and workable solutions that best fits their situation. In addition to your elders, the lines of communication need to include other family members because they need to be on board and in agreement with the planning process.
When dealing with older people try and maximize their ability to make choices for as long as possible. This gets to be a fine line and you’ll have to tread carefully. My experience is that you will clearly know when it is time to take over certain responsibilities. Before you can really start to develop an effective plan, you need to make an assessment of your elder’s situation which should include health, money, housing, transportation, and their social network. Your planning should be focused on minimizing crisis situations and reducing confusion. Good planning helps to avoid these situations.
Your initial assessment should include gathering essential information on the support network used by your elder. The list should include the names and phone numbers of the key services and support system that will be needed and utilized. Some things that should be considered include doctors, pharmacy and medications, insurance agent, bank information and contacts, repair services, friends and neighbors, and any one that will be interacting with your elder.
Each person’s situation is unique. I think the planning process needs to start with health and an elder’s ability to take care of their day to day living needs and hygiene in a safe manner. You will want to talk with your elder’s doctor, any therapists, and even their neighbors. This may seem like spying but getting objective input from people who have observed your elder is critical. Knowing and understanding a person’s ability to drive, cook, and maintain living quarters is a must in making an assessment and developing a meaningful plan for them.
The next step after gathering this first set of information is to evaluate housing. Look at the exterior and interior lighting, the existence of stairs and determine if they are safe. Also, check the location of the home relative to shopping or medical services. Is the house in poor repair, cluttered or untidy? Does the home have wheelchair accessibility? Your goal is to evaluate whether or not your elder is truly capable of living in the home that is safe and in maintaining their own individual safety.
This is an excerpt from my book, Navigating Retirement and the Challenges of Aging which covers a complete range of issues facing our aging population. The key is effective planning for elder care and the retirement phase of life.