“So, where do I begin?” When you suddenly find yourself in the position of caring for or making decisions for an elderly person this is a natural first question. The issues surrounding elder care are complex. It’s hard to know what is expected of you in this new role. The lingo and the medical terminology can be daunting. A whole new realm of information needs to be tracked and organized. The sheer volume of it can be overwhelming.
The best way to begin is to collect and organize the elderly person’s essential information:
- Vital Information – including name, birthday, and important identification like a social security number and birth certificate
- Financial Documentation – including bills, bank accounts, insurance papers, finance papers, and any debt that is owed
- Medical Records – including a medical history, doctors, a living will or POA, recent hospitalizations, and current medications
Gathering this information will help you interact with professionals like attorneys, financial advisors, insurance consultants, or medical providers. It will be impossible for you to make future decisions if you don’t have a current picture of your loved one’s situation. And, remember to write everything down! There will be too much information for you to attempt to keep track of it by memory. The AARP offers this helpful checklist for helping to organize all of your caregiving details.
Caring for someone else at home will also require you to be organized in your personal life! Often, caring for a senior adds to an already busy schedule. The more organized you are, the better. If you are new to the task, getting organized up front will help you manage the increased work load and reduce stress. One major way to prepare to care for an elderly person at home is to get yourself a good calendar and task management system. Some people like to organize things on paper-based calendars – but there are great tools online as well. Most apps and online calendar tools allow you to set up email and/or text alerts so that you are given automatic reminders for recurring appointments, tasks, or prescription refills as well as one-time events. You can also set up alerts and reminders for other family members.
Be proactive to set a time each week to review your week ahead and check for conflicts. Consider how you will manage your growing to-do list. If you look ahead and find that it’s just too much to juggle in a given week, enlist the help of others. Organize other family members or take advantage of eldercare services in your hometown. Homemaker services and companion services might be essential to the success of staying organized without losing your mind! But, you can’t access those needs if you’re unorganized or putting things off until the last minute. Staying organized will be a vital component to successfully managing your loved one’s care.