by Donna Jean Gerrier
Like most of us, I did not have a microscopic inclination of what was ahead of my family and I when I took over the privilege of being their main caregiver. My parents were both confined to wheelchairs, as my mother was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and my father had suffered a stroke and had Parkinson’s disease. Their senior care had surpassed the home care mandate, so a family member was requested to remain in the home around the clock in order for the home care services to continue. I am an only child.
My belief has always been that family looks after family. They are your responsibility, not that of the government, nursing staff or anyone else. Family looks after family at all costs.
However, to carry this belief forward required sacrifice and dedication, coupled with flexibility – not only for myself but also for my parents. With love and devotion we somehow all pulled together to live life in the most positive way that we could, embracing insane courage to take on whatever life placed in front of us.
In order to properly care for my parents during their time of need, I made sure that I was fully prepared. Here are some of the important things to keep in mind when the time comes for you to find senior care for your parents, too:
Make sure an updated will is in place.
I was fortunate that my parents both had a will. It’s important to make certain that your family’s financial affairs are in order, and that the will is updated. Work with your financial advisor, lawyer, and accountant.
A living will should be considered carefully. Be certain that you can be at peace with your decisions. In my case, had I requested no life support or resuscitation, I would not have survived a nearly fatal automobile accident.
(Visit the Wills & Estate Planning section of the Government of BC website for more information)
Investigate before you invest in a facility.
Before moving your parents to a live-in facility, become familiar with the health providers and services that are available in the surrounding community. For example, home senior care, pharmacist, physicians, nurses, and occupational and physical therapists.
Investigate lawn and snow removal contractors, housekeeping services, repairmen and grocers who deliver. Investigate these services before a crisis occurs.
Look beyond the attractive foyer, dining room, and entertainment programs. It requires a special person to carry out the needs of the residents in a facility. Question the administration on their policies addressing staff conduct and the safety of patients. To have cameras installed in every room would be beneficial.
Gain a thorough knowledge of the nurse-patient ratio, and ask for a detailed account of the diet residents receive on a daily basis.
Ask questions such as: How will they be dressed for the day? What are the safety precautions? What are the visiting hours? Are pets allowed? What level of mental stimulation are they given each day? What spiritual services are offered for the residents?
In my case, I chose to spend my inheritance on my parent’s care. I am so grateful that I made this decision, as they had been so good to me. No regrets have cost me but to have regrets would have impoverish me.
Start the conversation now.
There is no easy conversation when it comes to suggesting your parents should no longer be living in their home. These words can be devastating for anyone to hear. Should your loved ones have difficulty accepting a move to a facility, contact and work with your family physician. It may be easier for them to relate to this recommendation, if they hear it from their doctor.
Consider in-home care.
The Health Council of Canada reported that 93% of seniors want to stay in their own homes.
Seek an evaluation of the level of your loved one’s functionality, especially their safety. This evaluation will be helpful if it is recommended that your parents are no longer safe in their home.
For safety around the home, here are a few suggestions to consider: Install ramps, grab bars, hand held showers, a grab pole beside the bed, and especially equipped chairs and beds. Be aware of the dangers of heating blankets, and instead use heavy quilts and extra throws. Invest in a lifeline device.
Be aware of the dangers of seniors falling. The Safe Living Guide–A Guide to Home Safety for Seniors says senior falls are responsible for 40% of admissions to nursing homes.
Educate your parents about scams on the internet, phone and at their door. Request that they do not sign documents unless in the presence of their financial adviser, accountant or lawyer. Encourage your parents to attend financial courses and workshops for seniors.
If you choose to be a caregiver for your loved ones, just do all you can and the very best that you can – that is enough! Hopefully these senior care tips will give you peace of mind.
Donna Jean shares her family’s story to help others facing the responsibility of caring for a loved one, through her book, Eggs on the Wall… For the Love of Family Donna Jean facilitates a pet-loss support group, and is passionate to end violence towards animals and women. A retired speech language pathologist, she pursues an interest in the performing arts. She currently resides in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Check out our latest issue for stories back-to-school stories, preparing for puppy, BC’s best family-friendly biking trips, and more!