Navigating Elder Care and Building a Health Care Team

Aging is inevitable; a fact we are all aware of for ourselves as well as those we love. When the time comes to help our loved ones find comfort in the challenges of advanced age and end of life planning, it can be difficult to navigate the terminology and cadence of planning, especially when it is also an emotional time for the caregiver. In a previous blog post we shared that over half of middle-aged adults in America are providing financial support to both an aging parent and at least one child. Financial stressors add yet another layer of complication whether related to availability of funds, arranging proper estate planning, or the need for tracking and organization.

Aside from the financial items, however, the quality of care is at the root of the concern. Proactive planning is always best but a luxury not afforded by all. Oftentimes, the building of a care team is a result of an abrupt health event such as a fall, disease discovery, or a surgical implication. When the time comes it will be helpful to know the myriad of professionals available to support your family, as well as the different roles they play in care planning. Knowing who to contact in which situations can greatly improve the efficiency and quality of care.

Here is a preliminary list that may be of assistance that was provided to us by our friends at Old Colony Hospice:

  • Social Workers: Help patients and their loved ones with identifying community resources, future plans and resolution of daily problems and issues. Social workers may be your first introduction to facilitating rehabilitative, palliative, or hospice care while at the medical facility.
  • Home Care Nurses: Specially trained in pain management and symptom control. They work with patients and families to identify needs, arrange for services, supplies and medications, and coordinate care with the primary physician. They may be available 24 hours a day.
  • Physical Therapists: Movement experts who aim to optimize quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. Physical therapists focus on restoring the ability to move, reducing pain, and improving gross motor skills while promoting function and independence, and preventing disability.
  • Occupational Therapists: Occupational therapists focus on adapting, modifying, or changing daily activities that a person is required or wants to do. Occupational therapists might help patients improve the fine motor skills that are essential for many daily activities such as picking up a toothbrush and brushing your teeth, cutting your food with a fork and knife, getting dressed, using a smartphone, or driving. It is not uncommon for elderly patients to be prescribed both physical therapy and occupational therapy to achieve recovery from injury.
  • Hospice Aides: Help the patient with personal care activities, as well as light housework and meal preparation for patients who have fallen ill and expect 6 months or less to live. All aides should be at a minimum Certified Home Health Aides, however many have additional hospice certifications.
  • Trained Volunteers: These caring individuals make friendly visits, help with shopping and errands, and provide respite periods for the caregiver. Some volunteers offer unique services including Complementary Therapies like Reiki, massage, and pet therapy. Old Colony Hospice is proud to be the first hospice in the state of Massachusetts to have established a Veteran Volunteer Program as well, which is nationally recognized.
  • Bereavement Counselors: Offer support to grieving families and friends through one-on-one counseling, group meetings and seasonal workshops.
  • Spiritual Counselors: Provide support in a manner which respects and honors your wishes and religious/spiritual traditions.

The team needed will also vary based on the location where the comfort and care are being received. This may be at home independently or with the support of loved ones, semi-independently at an assisted living facility, or at a skilled nursing facility where a greater level of assistance is needed.

We hope that as you are reading this you and your families are healthy and well. If we can be of any assistance in navigating care or financial planning for next steps, please reach out. We are here.