When an elderly loved one becomes unable to properly care for themselves, families are faced with a tough decision to make. What type of care is in the best interest of their elderly loved one? This article will focus on situations in which 24 hour care is required. An elderly person in need of 24 hour care has very limited choices, and may be even further limited by a lack of financial resources. One option many families have chosen, as an alternative to the Nursing Home, is to integrate the elderly loved one into their own home and assume the responsibility of their care.
You cannot always assume the elderly person will be ready to accept their limitations and give up their independence. In some cases, families are faced with the difficult task of forcing their elderly loved one into accepting the care they offer. If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you need to do is consult with an Attorney. You have several options for assuming the legal decision making power of the elderly person. The most inclusive decision making power, is Guardianship. Guardianship requires a court order, and the petitioner (you) must prove to the court by “clear and convincing evidence” that the ward (the elderly person) is not competent to make any decisions. Conservatorship is very similar to Guardianship. However, with Conservatorship, you are limited to only having complete control over the elderly person’s financial affairs. You would need to file an application with the Social Security Administration in order to become a Representative Payee. If the elderly person meets the Social Security Administrations requirements to be considered incapable of handling his or her own Social Security matters, based on medical information, you would then be appointed as the elderly person’s Representative Payee. In states which offer such benefits to the elderly as Medicaid or Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled, you would need to apply to the Department of Social Services in that state to be appointed the elderly person’s Protected Payee.
If the elderly person is in agreement, and of a sound mind to make decisions, you should consider the option of a Durable Power Of Attorney. This document is signed by the elderly person, prior to him/her becoming incapacitated, and appoints you as his/her legal decision maker in the event the elderly person becomes disabled or incapacitated. The document may be modified or revoked completely at any time prior disability or incapacity. This document must be notarized and two witnesses are recommended. A Trust is a legal entity in itself, capable of owning property and having assets. The Trust would be managed by the Trustee (you) and give you the legal power to conduct any and all business related to the estate of the Trustee (the elderly person). Before considering a Living Will, check the laws in your state, these are not recognized by some states. A Living Will primarily deals with the elderly person’s wishes concerning life saving treatment and care in the event they were to reach a “vegetative” or coma state. A Medical Durable Power Of Attorney can address the same issues, and can be included within a Durable Power Of Attorney.
Remember no matter how old a person is, change is sometimes very difficult. Try to involve the elderly person in as many of the decision making processes as you can. As you begin to sort through and perhaps cut down on their belongings, involve them. Don’t simply make a lifetime of possessions disappear. Explain that you have limited space, and decisions have to be made on what goes with them – and what can be sent elsewhere. Try to bring along as many of their personal belongings as you can, especially photographs, keepsakes, and things you know to be dear to them. This is also a good time to ask questions and get ideas on whom your elderly loved one might want special belongings to be “passed down” to. As you begin to move things into your home, try to avoid leaving “empty space” in their home. The visual impact of seeing their life change so drastically can be overwhelming and bring on depression. Save large items back and move them after you’ve moved your elderly loved one to your home. This way they will be happy to see their items coming in – instead of saddened by watching them go out. Before you move your elderly loved one into your home, you should consider placement. Preferably, their bedroom should have it’s own bathroom, but if this isn’t possible you should choose a bedroom that is closely located to the bathroom. And don’t “over decorate”, save lots of free space for them to display their personal items and keepsakes in prominent locations around the room.
Providing 24 hour care may sound simple enough if you have your elderly loved one right there in the home with you, but you will be amazed at the drain this will place on you. This can be especially difficult if their bedroom is a considerable distance from yours. Rather than jump and respond to every sound coming from that direction of the house, you should invest in a good quality Baby Monitoring system. The sound quality varies, so shop around, but these can save you countless unnecessary trips! In the event your elderly loved one is unable to respond vocally, you should consider an inexpensive video monitoring system which consists of a small camera and a small monitoring screen that work on a wireless signal. Some models have a range of up to 100 feet, even through walls. This will allow you to move about the entire house worry free, because you can view your loved one on the little monitor at any time. Not to coin a phrase, but instead of a “Nanny Cam”, think of this as a “Granny or Grampy Cam”!
The feeling of independence is almost a requirement for the elderly to avoid depression. Whenever possible, provide your loved one with ways in which to perform tasks and make decisions for themselves. If your elderly loved one can safely walk with the assistance of a walker, encourage them to do so! If they can hear and speak on a telephone, encourage them to call family and friends! Give your loved one choices in the clothing they wear, the foods they eat, and in forms of entertainment. Too often we get so wrapped up in providing the best care that we forget to take into consideration that yes – a slip on dress or pull on pants would be easier to work with – but your elderly loved one wants to wear regular clothes today. You have to maintain a healthy diet for them, but give your loved one choices, variety! The more you stimulate an elderly person’s senses and keep them involved in their own care, the more receptive they will be to decisions you make that they may not necessarily agree with. But above all – as important as all the financial and medical care is – the number one requirement: Show them how much you love them, and that having your elderly loved one in your home isn’t a burden – it’s a blessing.