Three Assessments, Three Checklists and Three Helplines. Receive the elder care answers you need.
I felt incompetent.
I didn’t know where to find help for my mom . . . how to sort through the “more care” options she needed.
I wasn’t used to this feeling and it made me want to retreat into work or Netflix.
Making decisions about elder care is one of the toughest jobs that face an extended family. Families are faced with new elder care services, industry-specific jargon, and a number of alternatives that appear to be similar, but may have differences that will significantly impact the care your family member receives. After factoring in family dynamics and other emotional issues, many family members who are the decision-maker can become overwhelmed and unable to move forward.
Maybe you need to help an elderly person suddenly or maybe you are just starting to get a sense that your elderly friend or parent needs more help and elder care than they are admitting. Either way, it is hard to know where to start and even what questions to ask.
Step by step, you’ll discover WHAT questions to ask and how to get answers.
- Assessing your senior’s situation through identification of specific behaviors outlined here
- Making a list of your senior’s specific needs using the provided checklist.
- Call free helplines listed below for answers related to elder care.
- Assess your senior’s situation by looking for where they need help.
It’s easy to miss warning signs because we want to remain hopeful and frankly, sometimes we’re not sure what to do.
- Look around at their environment. Is the house dirty? Are there to do lists that never seem to get done? Food spoiling in the refrigerator?
- Assess their current social habits. Have they stopped leaving the house or doing the things they used to enjoy?
- Assess their paperwork and financial situation. Are there piles of unopened mail? Letters from collection agencies?
- Look at your senior closely. How is their hygiene? Are they eating? Is their personality different?
- Think about their responses. Are they unable to do things that used to be familiar to them? Do they have trouble following directions?
Here is a full checklist of warning signs.
2. Make a list of what services your senior may need.
It’s helpful to know the phrase “Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). The term gets thrown about in the elder care industry and is used to determine how much and what kind of assistance is needed for in-home care, at assisted living facilities and at nursing homes. The five ADLs are:
- Bathing: personal hygiene and grooming.
- Dressing: dressing and undressing.
- Transferring: movement and mobility.
- Toileting: continence-related tasks including control and hygiene.
- Eating: preparing food and feeding.
Which of the activities above do they need help with and to what degree?
3. With their needs in mind, call these three free elder care helplines: 2-1-1, the Caregiver Action Network and the Eldercare Locator.
Since now you have an idea what help is needed, you need to get answers from a trusted source. Online searches reveal sources paying to get your attention, but how do you know if you can trust them? The top results from an online search typically cover only one area of senior need—housing (specifically assisted living.) It’s easy to get lost in clicking links and trying to figure out what each service offers. Don’t waste your time.
Just call these three free helplines that can give you elder care advice. Talking to these advisors would have given me a starting point to getting more help for my mom.
When you make these calls, start by explaining your situation.
Then use this checklist of questions to navigate the conversation. The list includes questions about transportation, medical devices such as walkers and wheelchairs and canes, financial assistance, housing recommendations (assisted living, nursing home, etc.) and meals.
- 2-1-1 is government-funded, but it is not just for the poor. The operators can give you information about support groups, nursing homes, assisted living and other specialized housing options and caregivers.
- 2-1-1 gives you names and numbers of local companies, nonprofits or agencies that will provide the services your senior needs.
- 2-1-1 is open 24/7 and available by phone (best) or chat at 211.org. They report that 94.6% of the U.S. population can access a local 2-1-1 center. My call was answered quickly by phone.
Call Caregiver Action Network.
- They are a nonprofit and act as aging life consultants for free. They don’t even try to collect information from you.
- Caregiver Action Network is open 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM ET and available by phone at 855-227-3640.
Call your local Agency on Aging.
- Normally, your local Agency on Aging is a great resource through their Eldercare Locator. But because of the pandemic, they are only offering emergency food help.
- If you want to try, contact the Eldercare Locator online or by calling 800-677-1116, Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm EST.
- This government service provides geriatric care consulting for free. They can offer information about transportation options and in-home care support (bathing, dressing, sitter services, preparing meals), home modification and caregiver support/respite. They can also inform you about other local caregiving services, like those provided under the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Find your local office number on their website by easily adding your zip code.
If your senior is a war veteran, find out about eligible benefits from Veterans Affairs.
- With the Veteran Affairs Caregiver Support Line – 1-855-260-3274 – assistance is just a quick phone call away.
- Whether you’re in need of immediate assistance or have questions about what services you may be eligible for, the caring licensed professionals who answer the support line can:
- Tell you about the assistance available from VA.
- Help you access services.
- Connect you with the Caregiver Support Coordinator at a VA Medical Center near you.
- Just listen, if that’s what you need right now.
- The VA may also offer caregiver peer support, adult day health care, home-based primary care, skilled home care, homemaker and home health aide program, home telehealth, respite care and home hospice care.
Don’t get derailed by pursuing rabbit trail links through a general online search or get pulled into a recommendation by a biased source. To summarize, here is your “Care for Elderly Action Plan.”
- Look at the full checklist of warning signs.
- Print this checklist of questions to fill out during your helpline calls.
- Call the three helplines listed above (211, Caregiver Action Network and your Agency on Aging.)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way as you help your senior in their waning phase of life.