Earlier this week in our blog we gave signs to look for when visiting aging loved ones this holiday season. Today we are addressing how to handle those signs of decline.
The issues explained previously are the four most common signs of age-related decline that long-distance caregivers experience during visits with their loved ones, but there are others to look out for.
While you may want to keep things light during the holiday season, do take this opportunity to address any red flags that you observe. Collect any necessary information while you are in town to avoid added frustration and confusion in the event of a crisis down the road.
The Initial Conversation
First, have a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one about their present circumstances and both of your concerns. Suggest making an appointment with their primary care physician for a complete health assessment. The results of this evaluation will help you both determine what next steps are necessary to keep your loved one safe, happy and healthy.
Identify Supportive Resources
If possible, pay a visit to the local Area Agency on Aging or department of human services for information on resources and services available in your loved one’s community. It may be difficult to get in touch with these offices around the holidays, but it is still worth reaching out, leaving a message and researching the services they offer.
Sit down with your loved one to create a current list of people they interact with on a regular basis. This list should include friends, neighbors and clergy whom you trust to keep an eye on your loved one and can contact in the event of an emergency. Double check their addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, and be sure to share your own contact information with them.
Prepare a To-Do List
Now is the time to begin compiling a to-do list to be implemented over a period of future visits. There are three categories to this list: medical, legal and financial.
You’ll want to develop a complete medical record for your loved one, including their health conditions, prescriptions and their doctors’ names and contact information. This is extremely helpful for you to have on file, and your loved one can keep a condensed copy on hand for both routine appointments and medical emergencies.
A financial list should contain all of a loved one’s property ownership, debts, income, expenses, and bank account and credit card information. Should you need to assume control of their finances over the short or long term, this list will help minimize confusion and ensure all their bills are paid on time.
The legal aspect of this to-do list is possibly the most important. There are vital documents that must be obtained to ensure you can access your loved one’s medical information, make health and financial decisions in case they become incapacitated and administer their estate. If they have not already done so, it is crucial for your loved one to meet with an attorney to draw up medical and financial power of attorney documents and a will. You should have access to these documents and other important information, such as their social security number, Medicare information, insurance policies, the deed to their home, and their driver’s license.
These preparations may seem excessive, but it is better to be over-prepared than caught off guard when a loved one’s care needs suddenly increase. Throughout this process, remember to empower them to control their own life as much as possible. You may receive some resistance, but remind your loved one that sharing this information and pursuing supportive resources will enable them to remain independent and safe in their own home and give you added peace of mind as you return home from your holiday visit.