Family caregivers are “routinely marginalized and ignored within the health care system.” So says the latest report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. With around 18 million family members providing care for an older loved one, this report is alarming, as neglect of the caregivers can result in seniors at risk for harm due to uninformed, inadequate care.
Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re seen, heard, and given the right information and tools to help keep your elderly family member safe:
- List your name and contact information in your loved one’s medical records in case of an emergency.
- Inform your loved one’s medical professionals 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.
- Request training in the senior’s unique health care requirements, such as dressing wounds or catheter care.
- Locate and access resources such as disease-specific associations, the local Area Agency on Aging, and a trusted professional home care agency for supplemental/respite care.
It’s also important to clearly understand HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. There’s a very common misunderstanding that because of HIPAA, relatives are unable to gain access to their older loved one’s health records. The truth, however, is that if the older person has appointed a family member to serve as durable power of attorney for medical information, it’s the duty 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 loved one. Richard Schulz of the University of Pittsburgh advises, “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 Home Sweet Home In-Home Care of Southwest Michigan at 269-849-9252 for additional tips about providing the best care for your senior loved one, and for help in filling in the care gaps with properly trained and seasoned in-home senior caregivers.