In a perfect world, we would know the exact time and place of an emergency, but unfortunately, we can’t know any of that. Timing is crucial in a critical situation, and that statement is especially true when a crisis affects an older adult. Whether your loved one develops an illness or suffers an injury, it is essential to prepare for elder emergencies before they happen.
Tackling This Challenge
Case manager with the Central Oregon Council on Aging Christine Foy was featured in a recent article concerning elder emergencies, and according to Foy, “The more (an older person) has prepared, the better the people who are going to manage their affairs are able to do.” Knowing exactly what to do when an emergency strikes will help you focus on the current situation without being distracted by unforeseen consequences and unnecessary stress.
Preparing for elder emergencies can seem like it’s a lot easier said than done, and even though it’s not a conversation that we would like to have with our loved ones, it is an important one that needs to happen.
The best way to go about starting this conversation is by making sure every member of the older adult's caregiving network is present so that you can distribute tasks to each individual. Foy explains that ideally, members of the caregiving network should manage the following responsibilities immediately after the conversation takes place:
- Finances. When managing a loved one’s finances, make sure that your loved one has a will that clearly states who gets his/her assets after death along with monitoring their financial records. With the rising demand in elder care planning, there are many financial planning services available for you and your loved one to consider.
- Legal Arrangements. Managing legal arrangements includes obtaining a durable power of attorney to continue handling your loved one’s medical care and finances should he/she become mentally incapacitated.
- Health Care. The individual in charge of your loved one’s health care should make sure that an advance directive has been completed so his/her decisions involving end-of-life care are clearly stated. In order to meet with doctors and have access to your loved one’s medical records, it’s important to have a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy waiver.
- Moral Support. Providing your loved one with moral support is just as important as any of the tasks listed above. Make a point to visit or call your loved one at least once a week. Remember to have someone covering all the minor details that are often overlooked, including taking care of a loved one’s pet, gathering the mail and watering the plants. Even something as simple as making sure your loved one has food in the kitchen after returning from a vacation or an extended stay in the hospital is a task that must be completed.
Create a Caregiving Checklist
We all know that when an emergency strikes or when things get busy, it can become easy to forget to do something. That’s why it is so important to create and follow a checklist for you and your loved one’s caregiving network.
The AARP Foundation has prepared its own checklist which may help you get started on your own. Their checklist is divided into the following six categories:
- Home Maintenance and Living Situation
- Financial Affairs
- Personal Care
- Health Care
Even though this checklist is a great starting point for creating your own, just remember that your checklist really depends on your loved one’s specific needs.