Being a caregiver for an elderly relative is challenging enough in normal times. It is even harder during a pandemic. Remember to be kind to yourself. Do not expect perfection. Do your best with the time you have and the situation in which you find yourself. Below are some suggestions to help you get through this difficult time.
Social distancing yes; social isolation no
Isolation can be detrimental for anyone, but especially for seniors. Regularly scheduled phone calls and video conferences along with texting and emails can help compensate for a lack of in-person contact. Church often plays a huge role in seniors’ lives. Help your loved one access online services offered by their congregations so they can still feel connected to their church families. Good old fashion handwritten notes and cards can also offer connection and comfort.
Utilize technology as a Caregiver
In one way at least we have some advantages over previous pandemics. Never before have we had so many available resources and tools available through the internet and related technologies. Consider using video conferencing to talk with your loved one. If you have a loved one in a facility that is not allowing visitors, the staff should be able to help set up a video chat. Also doctors can typically diagnose and prescribe medication using video conferencing instead of in-office visits. There are also many meal preparation services, grocery delivery and pharmacy delivery options. If you are a caregiver it can help with your workload as well as lessen your risk of catching the contagion to use some of these options.
Caregivers Should Reach out for Help
You cannot do this alone. What is your back-up plan in case you get sick? All caregivers need a back-up plan. The stress of being a caregiver can take a tragic toll on your health and possibly leave you at a higher risk of catching the coronaviurs. Many caregivers predecease their loved ones because they fail to care for themselves and ask for assistance. If possible, enlist other family members, neighbors, close friends or people at your church.
Develop a Plan B
Formulate a plan in case you or another family member should become sick. If you are the main caregiver, designate another family member or friend who could step in if something happens to you. Stock up on supplies. There is a difference between hoarding and being prepared. Experts advise having at least two weeks’ worth of groceries, pet food, and essential times, in addition to one or two months’ worth of prescription medications. Remember that many insurance companies waived or at least relaxed the refill time periods usually enforced.
Think of the Legal and Insurance Background
If your loved one still has the ability to understand what he or she is doing, it may not be too late to get a legal estate plan in place. Now may be the last chance to put in place documents that could help you access and manage their money (durable power of attorney) and talk with doctors about what their medical care (advance directive for health care). So many families wish they had these documents in place after mom or dad has become too demented to sign documents.
It also may not be too late to look into long-term care insurance. Depending on your loved one’s diagnosis, you might have a window of opportunity to purchase some coverage to help pay for added caregivers in the home or help with the costs of long-term care in assisted living or memory care facility.
You should also review the health insurance options especially around “open enrollment” time periods. Does their plan cover long term care if that is required? There are huge differences between traditional Medicare and the “advantage” plans. You should find out in advance what coverage your loved one has in place and how it will or will not cover them if they have a decline.
Remember to take care of yourself
It isn’t selfish to take time for yourself. It is essential. Make an effort to stay connected to your social network. Schedule time on your calendar to take a walk, call a friend, or watch a movie. You cannot care for someone if you are not well.
If you find yourself in the role of caregiver for an elderly loved one and you need help, Burzynski Elder Law is here for you. Just give us a call at 239-434-8557.