By Cindy Sproles
Now that the holidays have come to a close and the decorations are down and stored for the year, it’s a prime opportunity to sit with your senior and sort out the upcoming year. Being organized is the best way to start a new year, especially if your loved one has been ill throughout the previous year.
Arranging and rearranging the needs of our seniors can be a long task, but the effort more than repays you when the time comes. Follow these suggestions to start “new” in the New Year.
Make a portable carry file with individual file folders inside. Name each file with individual Doctor’s names, addresses and phone numbers. As medical, pharmaceutical bills, and EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits) forms arrive in the mail box, they can be easily filed and accessible.
Keep additional addressed envelopes and copies of every bill paid, the date, and when. Often, especially if the medical expenses are extensive, you may be asked to produce past paid invoices for physicians or even hospitals.
Update personal files. It pays to update medication lists twice to three times yearly. Sort through medications and dispose of old prescriptions. Make note of new ones. It’s always wise to make several copies of this list and keep them in your files for fast and easy access in the event of emergency or new doctor visits. We suggest a list inside your primary information notebook that states the drug, the last time purchased, and if the drug has been suspended, when and who suspended it. This is important too, to update dosage changes. Changes will be in order of date for easy reference.
Again, place a copy in your car and in the car of your senior (should they still be driving) along with a list of important phone numbers i.e. doctors, hospital of their choice, key family members so you and your loved one are always prepared.
Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney are must have papers. Be sure Power of Attorney and Power of Medical Attorney are in place and keep copies with key family members as well as in your loved one’s personal file. Carry copies to doctor’s visits and add them to your senior’s medical files. Place copies of these papers along with Living Wills, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), and other end-of-life requests in an envelope and tape them to the refrigerator or inside a cabinet door in the kitchen in the event EMT or Paramedic services are required.
Banking needs. Make arrangements with banks and lending institutions so that key family members are able to access funds in the event your loved one is unable to manage their personal business. It is important to understand, simply being listed on the signature card of the bank does not give you access to funds in the event of the loss of a parent. Check with all banking institutions, life insurance, 401K providers, and retiree benefits to be sure the proper paperwork is in place should access to funds become a necessity otherwise, accounts can be locked by the institution and made inaccessible.
Verify Insurance co-pays and coverages. The new year brings new co-pays and changes in old coverages. Take time to contact insurance companies and verify deductibles and co-pays. Inquire about old coverages, especially the most used ones, and verify nothing has changed. If changes have occurred, have the companies mail an updated coverage sheet so you are prepared. As unstable as the economy is, never assume that insurance remains unchanged. Healthcare is changing monthly with our government’s hand now forcing coverage for all individuals. There is no longer security in what you “once” had. This is one area you cannot afford to skip over. Failure to keep up-to-date on insurance can cost your loved one thousands of dollars.
Having this log book provides up-to-date information for the care of the patient, and it provides accountability in how those caregivers are providing services.
Logs and calendars are important. Keep a log book of Doctor visits, what the issue was and anything discussed, any medication changes, and referrals. We tend to think we won’t forget instructions, but if an emergency arises the details are easily forgotten or confused—dates in particular, so keep a log book. If there is an in-home caregiver having this log book provides up-to-date information for the care of their patient, but for you, it provides accountability in how those caregivers are providing services.
Write upcoming dates on a large calendar so seniors can see the appointments clearly. Keeping a calendar can be one of the best things you do for your aging parent. It adds a sense of security and routine to their lives and it reduces stress and worry. Large erasable calendars are available at local office supply stores and make for easy updates.
Personal Emergency Response Button. PERS units are valuable assets for aging parents. Units are placed in the home and the client wears a button around their neck. In the event of a fall or an emergency, aging parents can simply press the button. A representative from a call center responds immediately securing the necessary emergency help necessary. Unit service costs range from $29-$59 per month, but it is a service well worth the investment. PERS units save lives by getting immediate response to family members and dispatching necessary emergency personnel.
Caregiver services are available to offer respite to families. Many seniors may need minimal assistance bathing, dressing, and help with daily living skills. Caregivers placed by in-home, non-medical companies can provide this assistance. It is important to remember that even though there are many willing individuals able to provide this service, they are not licensed, bonded, or insured and can be held accountable to the State for failure to adhere to state requirements for in-home care. The client is responsible for state and federal taxes, social security, and Medicare payments or for a Federal 1099 for these caregivers as long as they are employed by them. Seeking caregiver services through a company provides families with the security that individuals coming into the home are safe, reliable and fully meet state licensure requirements for in-home care.
Start the year by being prepared. Taking these advance steps will bring your loved one into the new year with a new sense of security and ease.