With as many as 18 million family members providing care for an elderly loved one, the latest report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is alarming: these caregivers are “routinely marginalized and ignored within the health care system” – resulting in seniors at serious risk for harm from uninformed, inadequate family care.
Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re seen, heard, and given the appropriate information and tools to keep your senior loved one safe:
- Make sure your name and phone number are listed in your loved one’s medical records as an emergency contact.
- Tell your loved one’s medical professionals what you are and are not capable of handling with regard to his or her care.
- Set realistic expectations for care – i.e., if your work schedule leaves your loved one without care for a period of time, that needs to be addressed.
- Request training in the senior’s particular care needs, such as dressing wounds or catheter care.
- Find and access resources such as disease-specific organizations, the local Area Agency on Aging, and a trusted professional home care agency for supplemental/respite care.
It’s also important to clearly understand HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. There’s a common misconception that because of HIPAA, family members are unable to obtain access to their senior loved one’s medical records. The truth, however, is that as long as the senior has assigned a family member to serve as durable power of attorney for medical information, it’s the obligation of doctors and hospital staff to share all medical records with that family member.
The bottom line? Be sure to stand up for yourself and your loved one. Richard Schulz of the University of Pittsburgh advises, “Advocate for your rights and make sure your caregiving contributions are recognized and supported to the extent they can be. You’re an important person in the health care system.”
Call on North River Home Care in eastern Massachusetts at (781) 659-1366 for more tips on providing the best care for your senior loved one, and for assistance in filling in the care gaps with fully trained and experienced in-home senior caregivers.