Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Going on two decades, I have met hundreds of family caregivers. What is interesting is that they are all mostly self-taught. For most of them it’s a long and difficult learning curve. Not because the necessary information is difficult to learn or understand, but because there are few centralized sources that give you the full range of services and programs that you will need and that are available.

Part of the reason is that each business which has a focus on older adults is biased to the services that they provide. It’s natural. Every business is an expert in their own field, and their knowledge, and their interest for that matter, in other services is limited. For example, if I need a car and go into a Ford dealer, do you think they are likely to refer me to Dodge dealer? Even if they know that Dodge has the exact type of vehicle that I am looking for, they will probably try to fit me into the best Ford that matches my needs. I don’t fault them for that. If anything, I have myself to blame. I should have done my homework. Unfortunately the information I need to buy a car is lot easier to find that the information I need to best take care of my mom. And this is why I say most caregivers are self-taught. It is often a case of trial and error.

I am not implying that these service providers are dishonest; it’s just that each has a field that they favor. For example, a home health agency provides paid caregivers for the home. That’s their business, that’s what they know best. Their knowledge is limited about other options like assisted living or nursing homes. And by virtue of who they are, they think that home health care is always the superior option. Conversely, assisted living communities have the same mind-set about what they do. They in turn believe that theirs is the better option. And so it goes with most service providers, regardless of their service or product. The upshot is that we have a fragmented delivery system for senior services. And as a result, caregivers and seniors end up having to do a lot of homework to navigate the maze of senior services and programs.

Sometimes their introduction to the world of gerontology is the result of a sudden illness or accident, precipitated by trip the emergency room and a short stay in the hospital. Other times it’s the result of a progressive chronic illness or disease. If I could be there for the first group, I would suggest that they find a Geriatric Care Manager right away. It will be worth the initial assessment and consultation fee, and it will save a lot of time, grief and money (More about that later). I say this because hospital discharge planners are notorious for giving a family 24 hours notice or less before sending a patient home. And if you feel that you are unable to take your parent or spouse home, they may suggest a transfer to a nursing home. Therefore, if you want to avoid having to pick a nursing home sight unseen, you may want to do some homework ahead of time.

If you are in the second group, you are fortunate to have the luxury of doing some research in the early stages of your loved ones illness. Unfortunately, many put this off way too long and find themselves in a downward spiral of providing care beyond their ability and capacity. They wear themselves out, and unintentionally putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. All too often they do this until they end up in the first group, with their parent or spouse in the hospital and a discharge planner giving them 24 hours notice to make important decisions for placement and/or care options.

In either case, fear not, there is still time to do some research and start making plans that are well-informed and appropriate. If fact a short stay in a nursing home may buy you precious time to do some homework that suites both you and your family. In the following pages and posts I will explain the “Ten Things that Every New Caregiver Should Know”

1. Know your loved one’s true condition
a. Physically
b. Cognitively
c. Financially
2. Learn the territory
3. Find out where you stand
4. Know the future (yes its possible)
5. Know your options
6. Recognize your needs
7. Find your allies
8. Know your limitations
9. Develop your contingency plan
10. Know your enemy

Please stay tuned…

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a commment. Follow me at and