Easy Steps to Organize Personal Care
Aging Matters

When planning a loved one's care, the best advice to receive is "prepare in advance" long before you need help. By waiting to the last-minute, it could put you and the loved one at risk of stress and potentially, not finding the best care.

Today, close to 50 million people provide assistance for the aged, chronically ill or physically disabled family members, according to the National Association of Family Caregivers. I recommend hiring a geriatric care manager because they're trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services in caring and assistance. They can help you find in-home support and housing options, and facilitate the care plan.

However, if your loved one is not at a point requiring extensive help, there are other ways to prepare, start with a list of people who can offer encouragement and reinforcement. There are many resources to draw on and here's a modest list to use to get started.

  • Find a support community -- network with other caregivers. You can find support groups at local faith-based communities. The members offer valuable advice since they live with the day-to-day tasks. And connecting with others in the similar situation gives you peace of mind and comfort knowing you can count on their experience.
  • Organize legal documents -- select a trusted relative, friend, or professional as the power of attorney and the health care proxy. The individual will make the decisions regarding the health and finances if a loved one becomes incapacitated. Before assigning someone to speak on a person's behalf, make sure they understand the person's wishes for the future. Hire an elder law attorney to review or carry out the documents, they make things easier and help those involved gain clarity about desired actions.
  • Keep a list of contacts -- keep an address book with contact names and numbers of service providers including bank, lawyer, pharmacist, physician, hairdresser, yardman and others who help. Add neighbors, church connections, friends, and family. Don't rely on memory for details.
  • Add local resources -- religious and faith-based groups are reliable support, but if one doesn't have close connections there or is not spiritually inclined, then seek out other agencies. Consider local, hands-on, with all-age members such as Meals-on-Wheels and the Area Agency on Aging.
  • Obtain a home safety assessment -- have the home assessed for safety to determine whether the loved one will be safe and secure living in it. The plan will recommend immediate, short-term and long-term solutions. It will check for proper lighting and items that obstruct mobility. You'll gain helpful insights and resources from the professional doing the safety audit.
  • Start discussions with relatives and siblings -- have care conversations with the family and make a plan and consider the special interests and natural talents each person possesses that relate with the care requirements. While some are not comfortable bathing and dressing a loved one, perhaps they can cook, clean, and run errands.

Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at Seniorcare.com. A former family caregiver, She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and wrote about personal concerns while growing older.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

Learn More



More on Lifestyle