Taking Care of Your Parents

Some time ago I blogged about how to start the process of getting help for your parents should they have difficulties such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or exhibit signs of failing to take care of themselves.

As you know, just getting your parents’ into
an assisted living facility or memory care
facility is just the first step.

You’re the bookkeeper

You are the one to be signing all the registration papers and permission papers. My parents’ facility gave me papers to sign that would permit them to put my parents’ picture in the facility’s newsletter! 

You have to make sure people get paid, maintain health insurance, check what’s being charged to Medicare, etc.

You will probably have to apply to be the representative payee for annuities, pensions, Social Security, etc. Don’t expect it to be easy. The federal government won’t accept a Power of Attorney without other documentation, such as doctors’ certification that the person is incompetent. Then, they go ahead and send a letter to that incompetent person asking if it’s OK that they pay someone else on their behalf! But such is life among the red tape,

Despite my misgivings, considering my mother’s former fastidiousness about her appearance, I gave consent.

Now it’s been two years and I’m indignant that her photo hasn’t been published! How screwed up is that?

You’ll find that your perspective changes dramatically, and in weird ways.

Get help if you live far away

Due to the fact that I live 1000 miles away from my mom, I hired an elder care worker to visit her every two weeks. This person is an RN, trained on what to look for on the medical charts and what to look for as far as the client’s physical and mental condition.
(find elder care – http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx)
As you may imagine, many elderly clients are no longer able to make clear their needs or even indicate pain sometimes. They could have an infection somewhere, internal or external, and they couldn’t tell anyone in so many words.My mom couldn’t even tell the staff she had a headache until they asked her if her head hurt.

It’s up to you, the relative, to clue the staff in about your parent’s past medical history and what they have dealt with periodically as far as physical aches and pains.

For instance, my mother has had osteoarthritis since she was in her 30s. Naturally, being part of the greatest generation, she would very rarely mention it. It was my dad who clued ME in when they were  both in their 80s, that Mom had difficulty walking very far, and that she constantly hurt. 

If you’re as fortunate as I have been, the elder care worker becomes familiar with your relative knowing when she’s having a bad day, uncomfortable, ill, or has gained or lost weight.

The elder care worker is also allowed to see medical records and speak to the caregivers about any changes in behavior, eating habits, etc. These are all clues that should be given attention by the medical team.

Just recently the elder care worker who visited my mom noticed that she was sleeping a lot more during the day – even falling asleep during conversations, which hadn’t occurred before. She brought it up to the staff and they dismissed it as part of the disease.

Don’t Accept the Answer If It’s Not Complete

She didn’t accept that answer. She made inquiries all the way up to the head nursing supervisor saying my mom’s behavior had changed significantly and it needed attention. And she also called me.

I called the facility administrator immediately   questioning the attitude of the staff, especially when a couple of them gave inappropriate statements to the elder care worker’s concerns.

The administrator made things happen: the physician changed my mom’s medication, which has resulted in her having more energy and clarity of mind. In addition, the staff that gave questionable answers are no longer working there.

You have to be diligent with the caregivers; always polite, but firm, so they know that you are on top of things having to do with your relative. Many of them are very dependable, but, like all things human, there are some for whom this is just a job. After all, these are not their relatives.

I’ll be glad to help anyone who has questions, or steer you in the right direction.


Christy Kelly

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