Support, Tips, and Advice for Caregivers
The Abramson Center has developed proven caregiver tips and advice through our more than 140 years of experience caring for the elderly. If you are a caregiver, please review these helpful questions, tools, support, and advice.
1.) When is it time to take away the car keys?
This is a very difficult decision for family members to make, and often the decision may be delayed until an individual’s physical and/or mental health deteriorates too far, leading to increased accidents and other driving infractions. One of the best ways to determine if it is time to take away your loved one’s keys is to have the individual tested by a professional or physician who has specific training and experience in evaluating risks associated with dementia, motor control loss, and other related diseases. Your physician may recommend that the family member engage in additional driving training and /or remove the car keys permanently. Other warning signs to observe include: involvement in car accidents and minor fender benders, failure to drive at appropriate speeds, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, getting lost in familiar places and near misses.
2) Can dementia be prevented?
While dementia cannot be stopped, researchers are aware of several ways to alleviate the progression of the disease for an undetermined time period. They also believe that specific behaviors including regular exercise, not smoking, following a healthy diet, cognitive exercise, and socialization can be helpful in possibly delaying or enhancing one’s cognitive ability.
3.) How long can my parent(s) stay independent at home?
This is clearly an individual decision that should be discussed among family members, the individual’s physician, specialists, and advisors. Warning signs to consider and discuss with medical and professional advisors include falls, wandering, and cognitive decline. To aid aging individuals who are experiencing physical and/or cognitive decline live safer at home, there is some advice we can recommend to help loved ones prevent falls. This includes adding grab bars in showers, next to toilets, and on stairs, as well as removing fall hazards. Technology may be helpful in reducing falls, monitoring medication compliance, and enhancing communication with family members.
4.) How can I help my parents plan for their future needs?
Encourage your parents to designate a power of attorney for financial and legal issues. They may choose to designate a healthcare power of attorney, sometimes referred to as a healthcare proxy, who will be able to make healthcare decisions on your parent(s) behalf, if needed.
5.) Is it important to discuss who will pay and provide for caregiving/medical care?
Yes, this is a family issue that involves all family members, including all siblings and parents. Our caregiver advice is to discuss places for your parent(s) to live, when and if to sell a family home, acceptable caregivers, and types of medical care and procedures that are acceptable to your parent(s). You should also consider ways for your parent(s) to receive meals and maintain socialization, as well as avenues to support the caregiver(s). It is also important to identify support systems including neighbors, social networks, and outside activities that could enrich your parent(s) life. Financial planning and budgeting for future medical needs is helpful and may involve the assistance of a financial planner, accountant, or lawyer. All of these discussions should occur while your parent(s) is healthy.
6.) Can I help with my parent(s) medical care and medication management?
Yes. If your parent(s) lives alone and/or independently, we recommend that you have a record of their medications, as well as names and phone numbers of their primary care doctor, specialists, and insurance providers. Poor medication management is the number one reason for leaving an independent living situation. It is important to be aware of side effects and to help your parents keep a calendar and/or pill box. It may be helpful to suggest the use of a medical alert bracelet and a medical alarm necklace in case of emergencies.
7.) What legal documents should I encourage my parents to complete?
Encourage your parents to write a living will, a financial will, and a do not resuscitate order, if desired. A living will states whether an individual desires life sustaining measure if he or she should become ill. For instance, whether to use a feeding tube if the need arises. The decisions should be made during a period of calm and when the individual is able to make them of sound mind. When decisions occur prior to times of crises, controversies between family members can be avoided.
8.) Should my parent(s) be interested in socialization, including an active sex life, as they age?
Individuals should be encouraged to socialize throughout their life. An active sex life depends on the person and his or her health, but age alone is not a detriment. Encourage involvement in activities, volunteer work, senior centers, and religious groups. Keeping busy helps maintain purpose in life, reduce depression and anxiety, and falls.
9.) Should I involve my parent(s) in decisions about their healthcare, living arrangements, etc.?
Yes, a smoother transition will occur if your parent(s) is involved in the decisions that involve his or her life. It is more helpful if discussions occur when an individual is healthy and if a third person who is neutral is involved.
10.) Are there ways to support a caregiver(s)?
It is very important to find ways to support the caregiver, as his or her job can be stressful. Medical adult day centers, respite care, homecare, support from neighbors, family members, and friends are all helpful solutions to the stress that occurs in the caregiver’s life. The caregiver should consider giving him or herself permission to take some free time or they will not be able to care for their love one and may experience increased anxiety, depression and physical symptoms.
If you would like to hear additional support and caregiver tips, feel free to call our Care Advisors, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-888-917-0587.