By - Sandi Webster

Caregiving Is The Business – What Every Person Should Know

I should have taken the Caregiving 101 class instead of learning to fix my car in my high school Shop class. Wait!…there wasn’t such a class offered in any school I attended! Now, as a business owner, there will be no business being taken care of if I’m busy taking care of the family.

A caregiving class should be mandatory before every human being turns 21. College graduation should not happen without this class.  There is a high likelihood that a young person will become a caregiver at an early age, particularly since so many women in their 40’s have children for the first time. As a population, we also live longer, which means we will need caregiving of some kind during our lifetimes – most likely from the children! If the children are in their late 20’s or 30’s now, there is an even higher likelihood that they might be taking care of two or three generations because they will have their parents, grandparents, and children.

 

For me, 2021 was the year of caregiving. My octogenarian parents, and my husband, all needed more help than usual and it was my responsibility to ensure their well-being. Per CaringBridge, The average annual cost of caregiving-related expenses is $6,954 out-of-pocket or nearly 20% of a household’s average annual income. This figure does not include healthcare aides or nursing homes.  If you feel you are going to be in a caregiving role in the future, here are the Top Two most critical things you want to know:

 

  1. Medicaid/Medicare/Healthcare Insurance. Do you know the insurance information for your family? If not, get on it now! At the beginning of the year, my father got COVID. He had to enter a) a COVID-only facility, b) a rehab facility because he couldn’t talk or walk, c) then a nursing home section because he was not ready to return home. The first thing I had to give was his insurance information.

If you do not have the insurance information needed for the patient, there is a long road ahead of you to get adequate services; you will get minimal assistance but inadequate to their needs. Remember that HIPAA laws cannot disclose certain information to you without permission. In COVID-land, most government offices are closed, and everything has to be done online – not just online, but on a mobile device! The website tells you to call the phone number that tells you to go on the website. What do the older members of our society do when they need help? They still have flip-top phones! These systems desperately need to be revamped to accommodate our seniors – and me! There needs to be a class just on healthcare insurance.

At the very least, get the general practitioner doctor’s information. That office should have all your parents’ information – what illnesses they have, the other doctors they use, the medication they take, etc.

 

2. Paperwork. This is a touchy subject for seniors, but you should put in the effort to get this information or know where to find them if it’s already done. Older family members can be secretive and suspicious as to why you need this information, but assure them that they need to give it to someone they trust, like a lawyer, for emergencies.  I found a large font spiral book named What My Family Should Know that lists all this information for them.  They can cross out headings and make their own categories if it doesn’t exactly fit their needs.  Google the name to find it – or you can create your own!

      • Living Will and Last Will & Testament. Updated documents should reflect their current wishes and include how they want to be funeralized. The Living Will is the most important document when hospitalization happens.
      • Lawyer’s Name and Contact Info. They might have changed the lawyer or, in my case, the lawyer retired.  Check with them periodically to know if the info has changed.
      • Bank account information. If the manager that they have banked with for over 30 years moves to another bank, they are going to move with that manager. Why? Because they don’t want new people; they are comfortable with the people who know the account. I could not get into his account because I had only the old account info from another bank.
      • Pin information. When I got the new bank account information, I got locked out because he forgot the pin and gave me incorrect information. If there is a computer pin, you need that as well.  Let’s not forget the pin for the house alarm!  Ensure your family leaves their information in a secure yet easy-to-find location.
      • Safety Deposit Box info. The key should be easily accessible.
      • Life insurance policies. Some of his policies were expired and one was about to be expired so set them up with auto-renewal from their checking account. Or you might want to pay that for them.
      • Friends’ phone numbers. Their friends will be calling to check on them and they will get worried.  If you have their number, you can call to assure them that the patient is OK and share their hospital information if they can get visitors or can call.
      • Landlord or Condo Info. If they live in an apartment or apartment building, get the information so you can enter the premises without incidence or make maintenance payments.
      • Medication list. Oh, yeah! I forgot about this – I needed the list of medications for my father and I was asked the same question when my husband and my mother had surgery. Write them down because you can’t remember them all.  Get it from the doctor and have them throw out the ones they are not taking. Lastly, ask them if they are actually taking the medication – you will be surprised at that answer.

In my December Caregiving webinar, we had a deeper discussion around taking care of ourselves.  While you are busy taking care of all the responsibilities for your parents, take care of yourself.  Elderly caregivers (over 65) are at a 63 percent higher risk of mortality than non-caregivers in the same age group, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh researchers Richard Schulz and Scott Beach reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 1999. That number increases to 70% if the caregiver is over 70 years old.

 

I will be having another discussion in March 2021 on Caregiving Part 2.  Follow me at https://linktr.ee/sandiwebster to find out new dates.

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