Are you in the position of caring for an aging family member? Dr. Marion Somers, author of Elder Care Made Easier and spokesperson for the 3in4 Need More public service campaign, shares her expert insight about elder care solutions in this exclusive LoveToKnow Seniors interview.
Becoming a Caregiver
LoveToKnow (LTK): What are the most common concerns that people have when adjusting to caring for an aging loved one?
Dr. Marion Somers (DMS): Financial and emotional stresses are the most common concerns my clients face when it comes to caring for a loved one. Balancing those two factors can be quite difficult, which is why it's important to plan ahead. Review your personal finances and compare that to the needs of your loved one. Plan to make time for yourself and your emotional wellbeing. Give yourself a break when you can, even if it's just five minutes in silence to gather your thoughts.
LTK: What are the most common mistakes people make when faced with the responsibility of caring for aging loved ones?
DMS: The biggest mistake I see with an elder's care is when a family member tries to take on care-giving duties alone. it's unrealistic to think that you can do everything yourself. Reach out to family and friends or local resources. Ask family and neighbors to stop by to help you with household chores or pick up groceries. The smallest help can make the biggest difference when it comes to helping with care.
LTK: How does long-term care insurance play into making plans to help loved ones as they age?
DMS: Long-term care insurance helps to cover the care your elder will need that regular health insurance does not cover. Three out of four Americans will need some type of long-term care which will not be provided by their normal health insurance. This includes nursing homes, geriatric care managers, assisted living programs, Alzheimer's homes and the like. If you plan ahead, you'll be better prepared to handle any difficulties that may arise.
Actions to Take
LTK: What are the most important steps to take to prepare for coping with the needs of aging family members?
DMS: Be sure to reevaluate your home so that it is "elder proof" and safe for your love one. This includes items such as checking for leaks that can create slippery surfaces, replacing batteries and checking the fire and carbon monoxide alarms, and ensuring grab bars or handles are in place for easy access to the tub and toilet. Knowing they are safe in the home will help ease your mind if you can't be at their side at every moment.
LTK: What are the most critical actions to take to ensure that aging loved ones enjoy the best possible quality of life?
DMS: The most critical action to take is talking. Talk to your loved one, he has plenty to share with you. Ask questions and listen to what he is saying. Not only will this make him happy, but you can find out if there is something that is making him uncomfortable or what makes him happy. You can plan small activities with him such as crafts, cooking, or listening to music. it's easy to leave the room and go on about your day, but you'll make your elder happier if you're accessible.
LTK: What can family members do to help their loved ones stay mobile as long as possible?
DMS: Staying mobile is an important part of an elder's sense of independence. You can help seniors keep that in tact by volunteering to take them to their different destinations. Offer to take them to the grocery store, a friend's home, or out to eat. This allows them to keep their sense of independence and maintain some level of mobility. If your loved one is in a wheelchair, simply taking her out of the house for a walk is a great way for her to feel mobile again.
What Comes Next
Many seniors move into alternative housing at some point and receive help from people who are not family members. Making these transitions can be difficult; Dr. Somers shares her advice on these delicate points below.
LTK: What signs should family members watch for when trying to decide what type of housing are best for an aging family member?
DMS: Pay attention to her day-to-day activities, such as dressing, preparing meals, and simple errands. If these activities become increasingly difficult for your elder, that may be a sign it is time to consider alternative housing or geriatric care manager services. If an elder is severely ill and her needs exceed what you can provide for her, that is a signal you should look for housing programs that specialize in that type of care.
Elder Care Resources
LTK: What should family members do to locate local resources that can provide assistance to them and their loved ones?
DMS: Families can reach out to local and national organizations to find help with their elder's care. Look within your community; a religious organization, hospital, or community center will have a list of local resources for you to reach out to if you need assistance. National organizations are a great resource as well. 3in4 Need More is a Long-Term Care association that can provide you with additional resources and information on the financial aspects of caring for your elder.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Dr. Marion Somers for taking the time to share her expertise on the subject of elder care solutions with readers and wishes her continued success.