By Marlo Sollitto
Joanne just got the call every child of an elderly parent dreads: Her mother, Katherine, age 80, had fallen, breaking her hip, leg and wrist. Joanne's family was suddenly in crisis mode. There were many decisions that needed to be made; decisions they were unprepared for.
Would her mother be able to live independently when she leaves the hospital? Will she need round-the-clock care? What is her recovery time? Does her insurance cover the physical therapy she'll need?
Planning for Sudden Hospitalization and Discharge
STEP ONE: Establish open communication with the hospital staff
You will no doubt have lots of questions for the doctor and nurses, but some people find it difficult to know what to ask, who to talk to and when pose these questions. See "How to Talk to Your Doctor" for some pointers on communicating with health professionals during a crisis.
STEP TWO: Determine how your parent will pay for their care
Medical treatment and caregiving can be costly, which makes good financial planning all the more necessary. But, in many families, discussing finances is a taboo topic. As a result, caregivers know little, if anything, about their parent's financial situation. Do they have Medicare or Medicaid? Do they have long-term care insurance? When an elderly parent is suddenly unable to manage their own finances, the caregiver often has more questions than answers. It is important to realize at this point in time that your parent's finances are your business. There are a number of programs and services to be faimliar with that can help you through this process.
STEP THREE: Decide where your parent should live after they recover
Once your parent has been discharged, there are some important decisions that need to be made. Will they be returning to their own home, or will they be staying with you? Will your parent need to stay in a rehabilitation facility? Perhaps it is no longer safe for them to live at home, in which case they will need an assisted living facility or extensive in-home help. The vast majority of people would prefer to stay in their own home, but it is important to realize that safety is a priority and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have changed considerably in recent decades. Although it is a difficult decision, decising whether or not a loved one should continue living at home is an important question that most adult children will face at some point in their lives. Knowing what options are available to you and you parent will help you make this decision.
STEP FOUR: Learn about their post-hospitalization medication and equipment needs
Following hospitalization, a patient of any age will need to have their health carefully monitored in order to prevent any further issues. Prescription medications may be added to their daily regimen, which can interact with other medicines, foods and aspects of their lifestyle. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech language pathology may be necessary. Durable medical equipment and other decives might be needed to enhance their mobility, enabling them to return to their normal routines as safely and quickly as possible.
STEP FIVE: Make sure all important legal documents are in order
There are a number of crucial legal documents that all people should have in place—especially those who are in their golden years. Medical and financial powers of attorney, advance directives, HIPAA authorization and estate planning documents (such as a will) are typically central pieces of the legal puzzle for aging parents and their caregivers. To make sure you and your loved one are prepared, read more about necessary legal documents here.
STEP SIX: Educate yourself on your parent's medical condition
Knowledge is power. Learn all you can about your elderly parent's condition. AgingCare.com has a wealth of information on many different health conditions that are common in seniors.
STEP SEVEN: Get support for yourself
Take advantage of our Caregiver Support Groups where you can ask questions about your situation and receive answers and emotional support from fellow cargeivers who have been in your shoes. Make sure you are doing everything you can to help yourself in addition to your parent. Keep in mind that maintaining your health and happiness directly affects their longevity as well.