By Pati Bedwell
As a care coordinator, I thought I knew a lot about the elderly and about how to help others figure out how to care for their loved one. Once again, life has shown me that I don’t know as much as I thought!
Recently, my dad had some things come up that put me front and center as a caregiver. It was a role I readily took on, and one, I must admit, I didn’t really think would be too bad. So, with my husband’s help and the support of my siblings, I stepped up (or stepped in, depending on how you look at it). It didn’t take long to realize that dad needed more care than we could provide. However, figuring out what to do was much more difficult.
Things worked out. It took a few days and a lot of phone calls, but things are better now. At least, we have a plan, and feel that we are on the right path to accomplish our goals. However, everything that happened made me question my role as an Elder Care Coordinator. How can I be sure the people I try to help feel they were helped? I certainly hope they don’t feel frustrated, more confused, or worried after they call me for help.
When a crisis comes up with a loved one, whether it’s a fall or some other health related event, it usually happens so quickly you don’t really have time to figure out what to do. You just do what must be done to get through the immediate part of the crisis. I’ve thought back on my recent crisis and it finally dawned on me that there wasn’t anything anyone could have done for me, at least not during that first wave of crisis. I was looking for someone, anyone to help me when, really, there wasn’t anything to do until the dust settled and we knew enough about the situation to have a starting point for a plan. Once we knew what dad’s needs were going to be, we were able to talk to the right people to get the information needed to move forward.
As a result, here are a few tips I would like to share about what to do when a crisis hits. Since a crisis is an unexpected event that happens out of the blue, the only thing a caregiver can really do to prepare for it, is to understand that it will happen sometime. It is vital to know what actions to take in the event of a fall or other health emergency.
If it’s not you, be sure you know who the Health Care Power of Attorney is and contact them immediately. Having a copy of HCPOA available to take to the hospital is a good idea, too. It is far easier than struggling to find it during a crisis.
Talk to your loved one now, before something happens, so you will know how they want to be treated. What steps do they want taken? What things do they not want? Once you get your loved one to the hospital, what’s next?
Understand, if your loved one is admitted to the hospital, it may be a day or two before you have an idea of what to do next. This was the hardest time for me – I felt like I had to do something but there was nothing to do to but wait to see what was going to be needed.
Start talking with the hospital discharge planner as soon as you can. They start planning for your loved one’s discharge right after admission and they are “in the loop,” so to speak, and will often hear from the doctors and nurses before family.
Verify that your loved one was admitted to the hospital and is not there for observation. That can be a key point when determining what options are available.
Because discharge to a rehab facility is often needed, talk with your loved one about which facility they would prefer.
Consider putting together a “going to the hospital emergency kit.” It can be something as simple as a list of preferences, things like hospitals, rehab facilities, a copy of the HCPOA, a copy of current medications, and a copy of their insurance information. These are things you will be asked about and it is something you can do now to help make the next crisis a little smoother.