By Angela Rocheleau
In the 20 years I have been in the home health care business, most recently as the CEO of an agency, I have seen the unfortunate results of the lack of planning countless times. Families plan for vacations and life events, but somehow they postpone the most important plan, care for an elderly loved one.
My agency’s first contact with a family member is often a phone call, placed by a frantic relative of an elderly loved one in a critical situation. Here are some helpful answers to questions I often receive from family members.
Q: Our Dad lives alone in a remote area and needs oxygen to survive. My brother and I are so nervous about his insistence on being independent and we are concerned if something happened to him his affairs might not be in order and we won’t know how to take care of him or be able to afford it. What should we do?
A: Don’t wait until the situation has hit a crisis level to begin thinking about the multiple issues that you and your brother could be confronted with. There are a number of things you can do now to ease the transition into the next phase of your dad’s life — a time when he can no longer live completely independently.
Ask the uncomfortable questions: Does he have a will? Has he granted power of attorney to one of you? Does he have long term care insurance to pay for home health services or a nursing home? Has he created a living will or designated a health care proxy to make medical decisions if he is no longer able to make decisions himself?
You may want to consider seeking the advice of an elder law attorney to help with these matters. If you have covered the bases, make sure you know where he keeps his important documents and familiarize yourself with their contents.
Q: My elderly aunt fell down in her home recently and fortunately she was not seriously injured. But, it occurred to us we would not know what to do if, in fact, we needed to move her out of her apartment to a place that offers around the clock care. It all seems overwhelming to us and we don’t know where to begin. Where do we start?
A: Start with educating yourself about care options. What do home health agencies offer? What sorts of assisted living facilities and nursing homes are in your aunt’s area?
Research facilities and agencies on the web and ask for recommendations from trusted healthcare professionals and others.
Prepare a thorough list of questions for the agency or facility. Among the questions to ask a home health agency: how do they screen, train and supervise staff? How do they assess clients’ needs and create a care plan? Are they liable for on-the job injuries? Do they bond staff and pay social security and unemployment taxes?
One of the best ways to assess a facility is to make unannounced visits at various times of the day.
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.