Natural Disasters and Aging Parents
Hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and earthquakes have all struck families this year. Sometimes your aging parent or other loved one is displaced and adult children must suddenly take them in. If your family member was in a care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living, you may suddenly face caregiving responsibilities without notice ahead of time. Communication with doctors may be sketchy or cut off when power is out. What should families do?
If you are unexpectedly taking on caregiving for an aging parent because of displacement, whether temporarily or longer term, there are some basics you can consider and do.
- If you are able to contact the primary care physician, get a complete list of all medications your parent takes. If your parent has some bottles of pills, compare them with the doctor’s record to be sure you have a complete list and that it is up to date. Order any medications needed. When a vulnerable elder misses doses of essential medication it can quickly lead to a crisis.
- If you are unsure of the care routine your parent needs, get a professional evaluation at your home from a geriatric care manager. Care managers, often with nursing or social work backgrounds, can assess your loved one and create a written care plan. The care plan should address your loved one’s physical, social and emotional needs. Recommendations about safety hazards, adjustments, and equipment your loved one needs should be included. The care manager will visit, evaluate and leave you with a written guide as to what needs to be done.
- Displacement is traumatic for an older person, just as the sudden responsibility for daily caregiving can be stressful for the family. Encourage your aging parent to talk about it, and ask what might make them feel more comfortable. Your loved one may not want to speak up, feeling that she is being a burden. Offer her your reassurance that you will all get through this difficult transition together.
- A care facility where your loved one was living provided structure and opportunities for socialization. Consider whether a local senior center in your community might offer opportunities for making social connections with others and find out if he is willing to give it a try and visit a center. Isolation can be depressing for anyone. Many senior centers have directories of other senior-oriented services available nearby too.
- Devote time to yourself when you can. If you can bring in caregivers to help you with tasks for your aging parent, that can give you relief and allow you to go to your job or other activities. Attend to your other important relationships by spending time with them. The sudden addition to your daily lives can stress communication between spouses, partners, and kids still at home. Take breaks.
To learn more about confidently navigating the journey with aging parents, get our book here: The Family Guide to Aging Parents: Answers to Your Legal, Healthcare and Financial Questions and at Amazon.com.
By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney