December 14, 2016
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has reported that family caregivers are “routinely marginalized and ignored within the health care system.” With about 18 million family members providing care for elderly loved ones, 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.
- Be sure to list your name and phone number in your family member’s medical records as an emergency contact.
- Tell your loved one’s doctors what you are and are not equipped to handle pertaining to his or her care.
- Be realistic when you set care expectations for yourself. For example, if you need to leave home for work for a period of time and your loved one may need care during that time, you will need to find a solution for that situation.
- Ask for training in the senior’s particular health care needs, such as dressing wounds or catheter care.
- Search for and access resources such as disease-specific associations, the local Area Agency on Aging, and a dependable professional home care agency for supplemental/respite care.
It’s equally important to clearly understand HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. There is a common misconception that because of HIPAA, family members are not able to access their senior loved one’s medical records. The truth, however, is that as long as the older person has assigned a family member to serve as durable power of attorney for health information, it’s the obligation of doctors and hospital staff to share all medical records with that member of the family.
The bottom line? Make sure that you stand up for yourself and your elderly loved one. Richard Schulz of the University of Pittsburgh recommends, “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 on Continuum’s St. Louis home care services for even more recommendations on providing the very best care for your senior family member, as well as assistance in filling in the care gaps with fully trained and skilled in-home senior caregivers.