Senior Care: A Crash Course on What’s Important

Dad goes to the ER with a broken hip, you become a caregiver. Here's a go-to guide of the essentials to remember when managing your aging parents.

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Caregiving can be tough, especially for those juggling jobs, family and more. You can try to do it all on your own, but you will likely end up compromising your health and neglecting your family and friends in the process. Come up with a list of tasks that others can easily take on—making meals, friendly visits, transportation to doctor’s appointments, laundry, shopping—and create a schedule via this free “caregiver’s chore calendar” from Lotsa Helping Hands.

Educate Yourself

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There are so many pieces in the caregiving puzzle, and when a loved one is in the hospital or dealing with disease or illness, it’s hard to focus on what needs to be done—both now and in the future. Check out this comprehensive Caregiving Resource Guide for a one-stop shop of caregiver basics.

Connect with Other Caregivers

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Millions of other Americans are providing care for loved ones, but it’s easy to feel totally alone. Don’t be isolated by caregiving. Reach out and connect with a caregiving support group, virtually or in a brick-and-mortar building (or both). Head to or to find support groups in your state and online.

Research Care Options—and How to Pay for Them

Research Care Options—and How to Pay for Them iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Your mother might be able to come home after a short hospital stay, or she may need short-term care in a rehab facility, or physical/occupational therapy services at home. No matter what the doctor recommends or your family decides, caregivers should know their options (and what each costs), even if it’s only for future reference. Explore care options at right; read about payment options here.

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Get Organized

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If you haven’t been asked for them already, you’ll need to locate several important legal and financial documents for your senior loved one, like birth certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security cards, and more. It’s worth taking time to organize (and photocopy) these documents, giving copies to trusted family members, as you’ll probably need to refer to them often throughout the caregiving experience.

Stay in Touch

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Let people know how things are going. Social media is good for quick and easy communication, however, if you’d like more private options, consider Caring Bridge, which offers a way to share updates and respond to questions more efficiently, and only amongst the select group of friends and family that you’ve invited.

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead iStockphoto/Thinkstock
The urgent and most immediate care needs tend to take center stage when you’re a caregiver. However, certain plans should be waiting in the wings, like respite care arrangements (i.e. taking much-needed breaks), a “Plan B,” or what happens if something happens to you, the primary caregiver, and clear, concise advanced directives for end-of-life care. Consult this Elder Care Planning Resource Guide for direction and guidance.  

Keep on Living

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The caregiving journey will almost certainly bring tears, stress and tough times. But it will also provide opportunities to laugh, learn something new, and deepen your relationships with others, especially the person for whom you’re caring. In the tough times, don’t forget to breathe. Anxiety and panic are counterproductive. Take time to unwind, find a reason to smile, and lean on others for the love and support you’ll need.

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