Know your options

Advance planning helps make giving and receiving care a positive experience
June 26, 2008

I read with interest Abby Bates' "Even at the Grave" testimony of coming alongside Eleanor ("Even at the grave: An exercise of law becomes a lesson in God's love," March). Now, I have a heart of grief as she shared that Eleanor had been neglected at home by her home health aide.

I have walked the path as an "adult child of aging parents" and now as a caregiver and health minister. Sometimes it is a very difficult path to be a caregiver. From my roles, I have a few suggestions to help care giving and care receiving be a positive experience for everyone.

1. If you want to hire home caregivers, use an agency. There is more accountability and support for situations you may not be able to anticipate at your initial point of need.
2. Research your options in advance so you will know what is available in your community.
3. Ask someone or more than one person to come alongside you in advance. Independence and privacy are great, but secrecy may limit how you receive care in the future.
4. Put in order your legal documents: your will, medical directives, durable power of attorney, durable medical power of attorney and, if you desire, funeral expense insurance. Then make your arrangements known to those whom you asked to come alongside you.
5. The Five Wishes publication will assist you if you have specific requests regarding your end-of-life care and liturgy services (www.agingwithdignity.org or 888-594-7437).
6. Seek out support groups and educational opportunities. There are resources available through local senior and medical centers.
7. If you are a primary caregiver, get support for yourself. If you are a primary caregiver with hired help, do background checks and be vigilant and observant. If you are a primary caregiver representing someone in a care facility, be vigilant and observant and present when possible. If you cannot be present, consider finding a co-advocate who can visit.
8. Keep your communications healthy. Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a great resource to help you learn how to care for yourself as you care for others (www.legacyhealth.org).

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