Where do families often go wrong when deciding where an elderly loved one should live? We posed this question to Debra King, one of the elder care coordinators at Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law. Debra has many decades of experience working with older adults and their families. In this article, she talks about two more mistakes she sees families make and share how working with an elder care coordinator can help everyone sidestep trouble.
Mistake #3: Going It Alone without Outside Help
Some families will opt to keep their loved ones at home in order to avoid the limitations on visitation imposed by facilities during the COVID pandemic. Some family caregivers will refuse all outside help, even if they have the money to pay for professional caregiving support. While there are as many reasons for refusing outside help as there are families, they all lead to the same end. Family caregivers who go it alone risk burnout. Recent studies show that around 30% of all family caregivers die before the person they’re caring for. The takeaway: Caregiving is a big job, too big for any one person. “It’s not a matter of if caregiving will become a burden to the primary caregiver, it’s a matter of when,” Debra explained. “When people step into that role, they do it with the best of intentions. They just can’t see the burden that lies ahead.”
Elder care coordinators like Debra are a godsend to family caregivers, especially when it comes to making the decision to care for a loved one at home or place them in a facility. “When family members step into the caregiving role, most don’t realize that they’re signing up for a marathon,” Debra added. “It’s never a sprint. Caregiving is about the long haul. It might be month. But more often, it’s years. Sometimes it’s decades. It’s a long journey with many pitfalls along the way. My job is to walk alongside you the whole way, let you know where the pitfalls are, and to steer you around them.”
Mistake #4: Being Unaware of Your Rights
Did you know that older adults who live in long-term care facilities have rights? If you are considering placing your loved one in a facility, you owe it to yourself and you loved one to learn about these rights. One of the residents’ rights most affected by the pandemic is the right to social contact and interaction with fellow residents and family members. COVID has made it far more difficult for residents to exercise this right, which means family members often have to step in. For instance, if a loved one is unable to set up video calls, the family needs to follow up with staff members to make sure those calls happen. “I had one gentleman who had to place his mom in a facility during the height of COVID last summer,” Debra recalled. “He was feeling bad because he hadn’t been in the building or seen his mother’s room. I told him to get one of the staff members to get on a video call with him to give him a tour of the room, including a look in the closet and what she sees when she looks out the window. Families really appreciate the extra support to make sure their love ones get good care.”
COVID times have shown us that it has never been more important to have an advocate if your loved one is living in a long-term care facility. Elder care coordinators like Debra can be that advocate for quality of care and quality of life.