Caregiving Can Be Frustrating: Planning in Advance for Senior Care Helps

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A survey of family caregivers and seniors, conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, revealed that there is little consensus on where to go to learn more about senior care. Fifty-two percent of U.S. seniors and 38 percent of adult children believe that local area agencies on aging would be the place to turn for more information. Forty-six percent of adult children and 40 percent of seniors believe the Internet would be the source.

Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions

Seniors ages 65 to 75 may be on the verge of needing care, which makes this survey data particularly alarming

A survey of family caregivers and seniors, conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, revealed that there is little consensus on where to go to learn more about senior care. Fifty-two percent of U.S. seniors and 38 percent of adult children believe that local area agencies on aging would be the place to turn for more information. Forty-six percent of adult children and 40 percent of seniors believe the Internet would be the source.

When Polly Needham's mother, now 92, suffered an aortic dissection - a potentially life-threatening heart condition - in the spring of 2008, Needham was thrust into the world of senior care. Although the Charlotte, N.C., adult daughter benefited from a 32-year career in social services, she called the quick transition into the care continuum "frustrating."

What family caregivers like Needham have discovered is that whether an older loved one needs help sooner or later, the journey into senior care can be fraught with misinformation and frustration. And there have been few places to go for answers. Family caregivers - usually adult daughters - rely on their own experiences and personal research to chart their paths, a time-consuming proposition.

A survey of family caregivers and seniors, conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, revealed that there is little consensus on where to go to learn more about senior care. Fifty-two percent of U.S. seniors and 38 percent of adult children believe that local area agencies on aging would be the place to turn for more information. Forty-six percent of adult children and 40 percent of seniors believe the Internet would be the source.

What's more, planning for care is out of sight and out of mind for half of seniors ages 65 to 75 who have not thought about their own future care needs, according to the Home Instead Senior Care research.

"Seniors ages 65 to 75 may be on the verge of needing care, which makes this survey data particularly alarming," said Home Instead Senior Care Co-Founder and CEO Paul Hogan, co-author of Stages of Senior Care - Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions (November 2009/McGraw Hill.)

Needham said it was "touch and go" for her mother in April 2008 when she was taken by ambulance and hospitalized in intensive care for a week, eventually spending another three and one-half weeks in a rehabilitation facility before going to an assisted living facility. After she was found wandering from the facility, a family meeting prompted the decision to return mom home with the assistance of family and professional caregivers.

Throughout the stages of care, Needham said she was unfamiliar with such issues as cost of care and medication, and scope of services. "The assisted living facility was a wonderful place, but if we weren't there mom didn't get to events. There was no in-between place." Her mother is now content at home, where she can walk the expanse of her five-acre spread. "She's so happy to be home and we all realized that was the best move in the world we could have ever made."

Hogan believes that people can avoid being surprised by a sudden need for senior care by planning in advance for care.

Home Instead Senior Care offers the following tips to begin planning for senior care:
1. Discuss your parent's wishes. You'll need to know what your loved ones want before beginning the planning process.
2. Make sure you have support. Caregiver stress is a liability. If you need support, ask for it. Visit a website on caregiver stress for assistance.
3. Seek out local sources for information. Area agencies on aging, your parent's doctors or a geriatric care manager are good places to start.
4. Help your parents assess their health. You can tell a lot about your loved ones' future needs by determining where they are today physically, emotionally and mentally. Seek an assessment from a doctor or geriatric care manager.
5. Help your parents adapt their environment. Your parents will likely want to remain home as long as possible. Make sure that their environment is safe and allows them the flexibility to age in place. Visit a website with resources on making a home senior-friendly for tips.
6. Include your siblings. To maintain family harmony, make sure that siblings and other important family members or friends are included. It will help alleviate stress for you and your senior loved ones.
7. Review the options. When you have some ideas about future options, begin by putting a plan in place. You may have to include Plans A, B or C depending on how circumstances in your loved one's life could unfold.
8. Think about the continuum of care. Aging is a gradual and progressive process. Consider what your loved ones might need through the various stages of the process. Learn more about the stages of senior care.
9. Don't forget financing. Social Security often is not enough and in most cases Medicare won't pay. Check out various ways to help fund senior care in Chapter 17 of Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions (November 2009/McGraw Hill).
10. Prepare for the inevitable. People are living healthier and longer lives than ever. But it's important that everyone, especially older loved ones, has a will and makes end-of-life decisions in advance. Find research on talking to your parents about a will.

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Dan Wieberg
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