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According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 8 million Americans each year receive support from five main long-term care sources — home health agencies, nursing homes, hospices, residential care communities (assisted living) and adult day service centers. The majority (63 percent) of them are 65 and older. That percentage is expected to rise because people are living longer.
This means more families will face important decisions about where their elderly loved one will be cared for, and how involved the family will be in that care.
Long-term care options
Most people prefer to stay in a home setting — typically their own home — rather than in an assisted living or rehab facility. If an individual or extended family cannot provide all the care necessary in the person’s home or the caregiver’s home, professional home care companies can be of great benefit.
They can shop, clean, administer personal care and grooming, manage medication, provide transportation and monitor the patient to make sure he/she is safe and his/her needs are met. While caregiving agencies require private payment (they don’t accept Medicare or health insurance), it is usually more reasonably priced than assisted living or nursing home care.
The benefit of an assisted living facility is that assistance is available and meals are provided, while allowing your loved one to retain some independence. An assisted living facility has a much more diverse population allowing for mental stimulation and activities.
Also, some medical conditions require wound care, nursing visits, physical and occupational therapies, complicated medication regimens, complex nutritional needs, overnight monitoring or medical management. This is very difficult to accomplish with one individual caregiver or family.
It’s important to work with your medical team so that you fully understand what’s required to provide proper care for your loved one, and whether those requirements are beyond your capabilities. If so, it may be necessary to use the expert assistance of trained professionals, either in the home or in a dedicated facility.
Preparing to bring a loved one into the home
The decision to bring an elderly relative into the home requires physical, mental and emotional preparation.
It is important to be proactive. Plan and organize as much as possible, and use the experience of the medical team in anticipating issues that may arise. Get as much information as possible, find out what is needed at home, and follow through.
Have a family meeting and ask what each person can do (e.g., provide rides to doctor’s appointments, bring meals, make regular visits or phone calls, provide respite when the caregiver is overwhelmed). Even distant family can help by making regular phone calls to the person, paying bills online, or doing research for other resources.
Don’t forget to care for the caregiver(s)
If you choose not to use a home care company and provide total care for your loved one, it can affect your own physical, mental and emotional health. Many caregivers are also working, caring for their own children or spouse, and sometimes even other relatives. Caregiving can be a full time job, and caregivers often put their own needs and feelings aside while caring for their loved one.
You cannot do it all. Know your limits and ask for help for specific tasks from family members, such as driving mom to the dentist, bringing over dinner, staying at the house while you go to your kids’ school program. Research and use community resources, such as meal delivery, transportation services, or local or county programs. Bring in professional helpers, as finances allow.
It’s very difficult to add another person who needs a great deal of care to your household. As your family members are aging, have open discussions with them about what their hopes are for their care in the future.
Discuss finances and legal issues, and if there is a long-term care policy in place. Complete Powers of Attorney documents for healthcare and finances, and differentiate between hopes and realistic plans. Talk to an attorney or financial advisor about how to finance outside care.
Another important thing to remember is that you can still be a caregiver, even if you aren’t living with the person. If you are managing their care by providing paid caregivers or people to perform household functions, you are still providing valuable services for your loved one.
Learn more about home health care services offered by Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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