One of the most common questions I am asked is when should care begin, closely followed by what kind of care and where. The answers are not as clear as the milestones or benchmarks when raising our children. Those tend to be age related and as our parents are demonstrating – age really is just a number and not necessarily reflective of wants or needs! Our parents’ uniqueness as individuals has had a lifetime to grow, develop, and sometimes even become rigid or cast in stone. There are no age-related growth and development charts for easy reference. You can, however, visualize a pie chart with three equal pieces labeled Limitations and Medical Concerns, Quality of Life and Social Needs, and Financial Considerations. Begin filling theses pieces in, knowing there will be a time when the current arrangements will no longer work.
Functional limitations and medical concerns may include activities related to daily living such as nutrition, hygiene, dressing, activity (addressing literally how one gets around), medication, and chronic disease management. Instrumental activities of daily living include how one interacts with their environment, such as preparing meals, doing laundry and housework, using the telephone, shopping, and driving. Medical concerns like anti-coagulant therapy, memory impairment, visual or hearing limitations have a direct impact on daily living functions and need to be included here. Try not to wait until the existing arrangement is not working!
Quality of life and social needs are not as easily measured. These are the things that make us unique as individuals and one could argue – the most important consideration. My father is a North Dakota native; farming is in his DNA. His connection to nature and the land is amazing and unfailing. Those are his guideposts for living. He has made this piece of the pie very clear for us; he will not be leaving his beloved land and people. For us, the where has been answered. The when and what kind of care remains episodic, rather like a moving target, affording us plenty of practice in hope of getting it right.
Financial considerations are the black and white reality, though there is room for some creativity. What kind of care and where balanced with quality of life requires ongoing learning and evaluation of the pie chart. For many families this piece may not be clear. Those of us raised in the 50s and 60s learned early on what our business was and what was not and we learned it well! Having a clear financial reading provides clarity and opens discussion if there is going to be any creativity. Assets, debt, and fixed incomes can all be successfully managed (no matter the level) once you have a clear picture.
Learning when care is needed, what kind of care and where, is as individual and unique as your parents are. There is no one size fits all solution. Continued evaluation and understanding of the pie chart will increase your chances of hitting the moving target! Making informed decisions with or for your loved one requires due diligence and heart.
Senior Living Week, presented by UM Housing Bureau for Seniors, is an opportunity to begin or continue understanding when care is needed, what kind of care, and of course where. Start filling in the pie chart at Senior Living Week 2014! Beginning Friday, May 2nd and continuing through Saturday May 10th, there are workshops, open houses, free health screenings, and an Expo at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, with something for everyone. There is free parking and free admission, so mark your calendar!
Learn more about how Certified Geriatric Care Managers can perform an assessment to help determine the needs of an elder loved one and find the right resources. Certified Managers may also conduct a review of financial, legal and medical issues and refer your family to appropriate specialists. Learn more about counseling, coping with illness, grief and loss, and planning for the future. Learn what Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance will and will not cover. Also, gather firsthand information from local resources to help you make informed decisions. Just as important, learn why Ann Arbor is one of the leading retirement cities, our weather notwithstanding! Please join this collaborative effort to share resources and information and start planning today!
Contributed by Rawlin Myers