The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has reported that family members caring for a senior loved one are “routinely marginalized and ignored within the health care system.” With about 18 million family members providing care for seniors, this report is alarming, as it points to the possibility that these seniors are at risk for harm due to possibly inadequate, uninformed family care.
Here’s what you should do to ensure you’re seen, heard, and given the most appropriate information and tools to help keep your senior loved one safe:
- In your loved one’s medical records, be sure to include your name and phone number as an emergency contact.
- Tell your loved one’s health care professionals what you are and are not equipped to handle pertaining to his or her care.
- Address the limits of your schedule – i.e. if your loved one may require care while you are away at work, outside care help must be arranged.
- Request training in the senior’s particular care needs, such as dressing wounds or catheter care.
- Locate and access resources such as disease-specific businesses, the local Area Agency on Aging, and a reputable professional home care agency for supplemental/respite care.
It’s also important to clearly understand HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. There’s a very common misconception that as a consequence of HIPAA, family members are unable to obtain access to their older loved one’s medical records. The truth, however, is that if the senior has appointed a family member to serve as durable power of attorney for healthcare information, it’s the duty of doctors and hospital staff to share all medical records with that family member.
The final conclusion? Make certain you stand up for yourself and your loved one. Richard Schulz of the University of Pittsburgh advises, “Advocate for your rights and make sure your caregiving contributions are recognized and supported to the extent they can be. You’re an important person in the health care system.”
Call Midnight Sun Home Care of Anchorage, AK at 907-677-7890 for additional tips about providing the highest quality care for your senior family member, as well as support in filling in the care gaps with properly trained and skilled in-home senior caregivers.