The decision to take over the physical or financial care for your aging parent is not usually one that comes easily. Often times, families intervene with a loved one’s care when there is some sort of crisis–the diagnosis of a chronic health issue, cognitive decline, having to take their car keys away, or learning about stacks of unpaid bills.
When decisions are made as a reaction to a crisis or have to be made quickly, there may be things that get overlooked, or possibilities that aren’t considered. In order to be sure that you are covering all of your caregiving bases, we put together this helpful checklist:
- Does your loved one have a plan that expresses their wishes for how they would like to receive care in different emergency scenarios? If so, make sure they put it in writing and make the document accessible for you. If not, talk to your parent about their care wishes.
- Has your loved one chosen a medical proxy to make decisions on their behalf in case they are incapacitated?
- Find and maintain your loved one’s medical records, including a current and complete list of physicians and medications, including the dosage.
- When it comes to making medical and financial decisions on your loved one’s behalf, it’s not enough for professionals to simply take your word for it. Make it official, by filing for Power of Attorney, which gives you the authority to make decisions for your loved one if they are unable.
- Create a detailed care plan outlining what you will be responsible for as a caregiver. This is a good way to start a conversation about what you are comfortable with (cooking, dressing, accompanying them to doctors appointments, etc.) and what you may not be comfortable with (changing diapers, administering medical equipment, etc.) in order to establish clear boundaries from the outset of the experience. This will also be helpful if you have siblings and need to divide caregiving responsibilities.
- Has your loved one drawn up end-of-life plans and estate plans? If so, discuss their wishes with them. If not, talk them about sitting down with a lawyer to map everything out.
Activities of Daily Living
- Is your loved one able to buy their own groceries and prepare their own food?
- Are they able to get dressed by themselves?
- Is your loved one able to manage their medications properly?
- Check your loved one’s home for safety issues, such as tripping hazards and low lighting, as well as potentially installing grab bars in the bathroom to encourage safety and independence.
- Is it safe for your loved one to continue driving? Keep the lines of communication open with them about it, and encourage them to have their vision and hearing checked regularly to be sure they are safe behind the wheel.
- If your loved one can no longer drive, come up with a plan for how to get them to and from appointments during the day, especially if you have to be at work. Consider using apps like Lyft or Uber, or take advantage of organizations like ElderHelpers.org, which offers free rides to seniors in need.
Although not officially on the checklist, you should add self-care to your to-do’s, as caregiver burnout can take a serious physical and emotional toll. Make sure you schedule time for yourself in addition to all your newfound caregiving duties–from going to the gym, to taking 20 minutes a day to meditate, to spending time with friends–as caring for yourself will have a big impact on your ability to care for others.