When someone’s health declines, one or more loved ones may step forward to become caregivers.
Yet quite often, even several caregivers may not be able to provide enough assistance. They may have other responsibilities, such as children or full-time jobs, so each one might only be able to give a few hours each week. Or even if they have ample time, they might not be a good emotional or physical match to take on the daily long-term care of a health-challenged loved one. They may need more help.
So, what are some options? An assisted living facility may be one, but if a health decline is slow, that may not be necessary, at least not at first. Another option can be care management, in which a professional fills in the gaps, ranging from finding in-person care to solving issues around meals, cleanliness, and medication. In addition, when a loved one’s health declines to the point that round-the-clock care is required, the service can coordinate placement to an assisted living facility, according to Allison Beale, the director of First Class Senior Care, which handles care for many families in Los Angeles.
Beale begins her work by creating a detailed assessment of a loved one’s issues, including grooming, toileting, cooking, medications, ambulation, and difficulties with their current home, such as stairs or the lack of a ramp or elevator. “These are all major, major questions,” Beale said. “I try to be a very good listener, so I really understand what they’re experiencing.”
Then once she understands the varied challenges, Beale sets up care systems to tackle them. Often, loved ones are able to stay in their homes much longer due to the supports Beale provides. The $250/hour care management costs tend to be larger at the beginning as she establishes support systems, but then Beale’s charges generally reduce. Nurses, medications, and hired caregivers, which Beale coordinates through other service providers, will also affect expenses for a family, but her goal is to make certain that the arrangements fit the family’s budget. “Once everything is in order, then we’re just coasting,” Beale said. “My goal is to suck up all the stress from caregivers and pass them a solution, not a problem.” In general, Beale urges families to consider the following as they decide on care options:
1) Be Proactive, Not Reactive
“This is my mantra, and I tell it to everybody,” Beale said. “When you make a plan and you share it, it changes the trajectory of your care. When you don’t share it, it’s a secret. Then someone will make a plan for you, and it will probably not be what you wanted.” This is advice she gives to both loved ones and caregivers, and a big part of her initial process with the family is making certain the loved one is on board with the care choices, so that the plan is approved by all.
2) Talk to Each Other
Talking about problems allows them to be addressed, and with ailing health, conversations often need to be had repeatedly as the situation changes. “Our culture is so afraid to talk about death and dying,” Beale says, but those conversations are necessary. Both caregivers and the ailing loved one will have issues that need to be addressed, so make certain to check in with each other and listen to the problems that inevitably crop up.
3) Revisit the Plan
The caregiving plan will likely go through many adjustments, so as conversations occur, feel free to adjust it as necessary. Eventually, if a loved one’s health deteriorates, staying at home may become untenable. Round-the-clock care in the home can eat up savings, so Beale recommends that families keep abreast of the costs and consider what makes since economically. An assisted living facility may eventually be a less costly option, and Beale doesn’t charge to help families find a good match.
For many families, care management can be a part of the solution, so if it would be affordable in your situation, please reach out and find someone who can help. Caregiving does not have to be tackled alone, and if money is an issue, local organizations may also be able to find a similar way to provide some relief, so check with your state’s Department of Aging for possible solutions.
Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well. —KK
Please consider making a donation to the Kathi Koll Foundation so you can help make a difference in struggling family caregivers’ lives. Thank you!
Photo “Tree Hands” © Pixabay