When the chips are down

Prompt decision-making is often important and juggling and coping are the mantras of this stage of care. Oftentimes, the need to care for our elders is caused by an “accident” or “incident.” Suddenly, we find ourselves face to face with a doctor in the emergency room or rushing home from work to deal with a crisis.

Prompt decision-making is often important and juggling and coping are the mantras of this stage of care. Oftentimes, the need to care for our elders is caused by an “accident” or “incident.” Suddenly, we find ourselves face to face with a doctor in the emergency room or rushing home from work to deal with a crisis.

At times like this, it is important to:

Call your family physician for advice.

Contact your local nursing or community support agency

Call family and friends for assistance

Be sure to understand medical coverage and benefits programs to avoid unexpected bills.

Take the time to understand all the options available. Frequently, we are stressed and rushed at times like these and have trouble remembering what was said by experts. Take notes. Don’t hesitate to ask nurses and clinicians to write down a diagnosis and rehabilitation instructions. If in doubt, call back later. Don’t be pushed into making decisions too quickly. Barring a major health crisis or safety issue, and waiting a few hours or overnight won’t make a huge difference. In fact, taking extra time and thought will help you develop the best long-term plan.

Dealing with hospitalization or rehab. It’s a whole new world for you and your elder when he or she suddenly needs the care and supports of others. Hospitals and rehabilitation centres encourage and mobilize patients to return home and resume the normal activities of daily living as soon as possible. In addition to the medical and nursing regimen, treatments and programs will include a range of occupational and physiotherapy activities as well as a social and recreational focus. Here are some wise words to help you make sure your loved one is getting the best care and advice.

Connect with health professionals. Get to know the experts and talk with them a lot. Ask questions and give them as much information as you can about your parent’s situation. Be patient and pleasant, recognizing that your loved one is one of many in an often-overcrowded system. While the squeaky wheel often gets the grease, it’s key to remember that you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Make visits meaningful. Visit your elder as often as you can, even if the visits are brief, so they are assured of your support. Leave little reminders of your visit so when he/she wakes up, they’ll remember it. Items like cards, flowers, a colourful box of tissues, or family pictures will provide comfort. Encourage friends to visit or see if a hospital volunteer can spend time.

Good grooming and appearance. Arrange for your parent’s hair to be done regularly, nails trimmed and polished, and other grooming practices so your parent feels better about how he or she looks. Take some favourite items of clothing and surprise him or her with something new to wear.

Encourage and praise. Recovery is often difficult and rehabilitation is hard work, especially in an unfamiliar environment with a demanding team of physio and occupational therapists. There will be expectations to meet in regaining optimum physical, mental, and functional levels. As your loved one makes progress, acknowledge it often. Expect them to be tired and often disillusioned, especially at the end of the day when the hospital /rehab centre is quiet. Let them know you’re rooting for them, and how happy you are with the progress. Telephone encouragement when you can’t be there in person.

Excerpted with permission from The Complete Canadian Eldercare Guide.

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