Caregivers deserve some time off

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By Angela Rocheleau

March brings the promise of the spring season, but, for some families dealing with elderly or frail loved ones it also raises concerns that need to be addressed. Here are some helpful answers to questions we often receive from family members this time of the year.

Q: My elderly mom lives with us and I am her caretaker 24/7.  I have an opportunity to go away for a short vacation. I am so tired it would be wonderful to have a break. However, I don’t know how I can find someone to take my place. Where do I begin?

A.  You know we hear this question a lot, especially as spring draws near. It is time to take a break. Caretakers need a vacation too. Start by interviewing private duty agencies that offer 24/7 care. Arrange to have a nurse from a reputable agency come to your home to assess the situation and create a plan of care. The nurse will match your Mother with aides that have the experience and the knowledge to accommodate her specific needs. Once you have chosen the agency and the care plan is completed, have one or more of the aides in for short periods of time prior to your departure so your Mother won’t feel like a stranger is arriving. You will be surprised how quickly she will adapt to being taken care of by these new- yet familiar faces. Once you return from vacation be sure to plan other breaks from the long hours of caretaker duty with the same agency and home health aides. You deserve it!

Q. I just found out that my senior uncle, who was recently released from the hospital, will not be cared for indefinitely through his Medicare. I thought all his needed services would be covered by Medicare throughout his recovery. I live a distance away and I am now worried he will be alone. What can I do?

A. You are right to be concerned. There is a lot of confusion about which areas of care are covered by Medicare. Supplemental insurance is required to cover some situations. You should get educated quickly on the additional insurance coverage your uncle will need. In the meantime I recommend you speak with the discharge planner at the hospital to determine exactly what care your uncle needs and which of those services are covered by his insurance. You will probably have to supplement his care with private duty care. When searching, be sure to look for an agency that specializes in post-hospital stays that can assist your uncle with all the aspects of the compassionate care needed to get him through this time of healing. Keep in mind your uncle’s needs may include household duties as well as personal care. The agency should provide certified home health aides trained in proper lifting and transferring techniques as well as bathing and personal hygiene. An experienced, knowledgeable home health aide will help him through his recovery and take the burden off of you.

Angela Rocheleau has 25 years of experience in the home health care industry focusing on leadership roles for the past two decades. She serves on the Better Business Bureau board of Central New England and the Executive Board of the Mass Council for Home Care Aides.