Recently, a friend shared his family caregiver experiences with me. He described occasions that represented true chaos for him as he dealt with doctors, attorneys, financial institutions and others. There was a combination of misinformation, poor communication, and a lack of concern for the loved one and their assets. As he shared his dilemma, I thought of many others who probably are having similar experiences. These situations may be avoided with knowledge and early preparation for the tasks that lie ahead, along with open communication with the loved one, family members and professional advisors. Before you have similar chaotic experiences, review the following tips and pitfalls for direction in your caregiving encounter. I hope these tactics will ensure that you have a compassionate and successful caregiver experience.
Tip: Spend upfront time with a reputable attorney and/or financial planner to ensure that your loved ones’ estate plan is in order understood by all relevant individuals.
Pitfall: The lack of a well-thought-out plan can contribute to confusion, an inability to fulfill the loved ones’ wishes and, depending on the size of the estate, risk significant financial loss.
Tip: Ensure that the appropriate legal documents - Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directives and Living Will are executed early during your tenure as a caregiver.
Pitfall: Without these documents you will not be able to communicate with medical and legal professionals on behalf of your loved one.
Tip: Carefully analyze all housing options (e.g., In-home, Assisted Living, Nursing Home, etc.) for your loved one before the need arises.
Pitfall: Being out of sync with the level of assistance required by your loved one can lead to injury of the loved one, a resistance by the loved one to progress to the appropriate facility, and the inability to determine level and cost of outside help.
Tip: Plan your own respite needs.
Pitfall: Many caregivers become ill themselves because they are stressed out, do not eat and exercise properly, and do not request help from family, friends and local agencies to assist with their caregiving tasks.
Tip: Utilize existing caregiving resources such as Stepping: A Companion and Guide for Family Caregivers by Cenetta J. Lee and Gloria F. Carr to assist in your caregiving journey.
Pitfall: Relying on your limited knowledge and anecdotal information from friends can lead to serious caregiver missteps including, misunderstanding medical professionals, being unable to recognize declining health in a loved one, and making the wrong decision about housing options.
Tip: If possible, try to know your loved one’s desire relative to final arrangements. That is, type of service, program content, funeral director, costs, etc.
Pitfall: Emotions are fragile during this time and decision-making can be conflicted as family members try to decide what is best for the loved one.