Congratulations! You have taken an important step in assisting your elderly parent to remain safe and comfortable at home. You've done your homework, asked every question you could think of and have selected your family's Home Care Agency. The agency has introduced you to a fantastic caregiver. She is credentialed, experienced, and confident. She made a great first impression and your Mom is looking forward to her companionship. Why are you still nervous?
First of all, it's completely normal to feel a little anxious about a new care situation for a family member. The concerns are heightened if the elderly parent has complex care requirements. You worry something will fall through the cracks. The best way to alleviate the worry and look forward to a successful care relationship is to prepare well for that first day. Develop a checklist or daily task log to help guide your parent's new caregiver. If you prefer, the instructions can be written in narrative form instead and can be set up as a CARE BINDER. Sit down with the caregiver and review the care instructions together. Be sure to solicit input and express appreciation for her training and experience. With all of the care essentials documented, you can relax and feel confident, knowing that you have done your part in getting the caregiver off to a great start .
Consider including these items when preparing your parent's care instructions:
- Medication Instructions. Provide a comprehensive listing of all medications that your parent is taking along with dosage and purpose. All medications should be pre-dispensed by family members and organized in daily pill dispensing containers. Indicate the time of day the medications should be given and any special considerations like whether meds should be given with/without food. If convincing your parent to take medications on time has been a problem, alert the caregiver to any strategies that have been successful in the past.
- Meal Time Preferences. In all likelihood, your parent looks forward to sitting down for a tasty meal. If your caregiver is not especially skilled in the kitchen, make it easy for her to prepare something that your parent will enjoy. Include a list of simple to prepare favorites with instructions, if necessary. Specifically identify foods or ingredients that your parent doesn't like. Of course, highlight any food allergies or dietary restrictions in your care document. For example, if liquids are restricted in the evening to avoid night time incontinence; alert the caregiver.
- Assistance with Basic Tasks. Identify the specific type and level of assistance your parent needs with routine tasks like ambulating, eating, showering, dressing, toileting, oral hygiene, and household duties. Identify critical safety concerns like choking potential, such as cutting food into small pieces, Share insights and tips that will benefit both the caregiver and your parent. For example, if you know that your mom is extremely modest, alert the caregiver so she can take that into consideration when providing shower assistance.
- "Quirks". Let's face it. We all have them! Prep your parent's caregiver by alerting him or her to those things that drive your parent nuts. Perhaps your dad isn't a morning person and too much conversation in the morning sets him off. Let your caregiver know so she can avoid this pitfall.
- Daily Routines. Is there a particular way of ordering the day that seems to make things flow better for your parent? Provide a brief outline as a guide to help structure the day, leaving room for the caregiver to make adjustments. If your parent is more independent and prefers to "call the shots", let the caregiver know that as well.
- Preferred Activities. List some things that your parent might enjoy doing with the caregiver or things that he or she can be encouraged to do by himself. Identify favorite TV shows & movies or reading material. Perhaps there are places your parent would like to go that you simply don't have time for like the movie theater, shopping, library or parks.
- Contact Listing. Include an organized list of key phone numbers for your caregiver such as family members, neighbor, primary care physician, pharmacy and service providers like hair salon or physical therapist.. Identify the home address so that the caregiver can reference it in the event of an emergency. It may also be helpful to provide driving directions to places like grocery store, pharmacy, senior center, physician office and favorite destinations.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list but can be a great starting point for getting prepared to welcome a new caregiver. Remember to keep an open mind and allow for alternate ways to accomplish the same task. If the care tasks are very involved, consider arranging for a paid orientation session with the caregiver prior to the first day of service. A little planning and prep work can help foster a great care arrangement for your parent and some freedom for you!
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