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  • Writer's picturePam

What to Do When Your Aging Parent's Condition Changes and You're in Crisis Mode

It’s 2am and your phone rings. It is your dad. The dreaded middle of the night phone call comes in that tells you something is very wrong. You feel that achy sick feeling deep down in your stomach as your father begins talking so fast you can hardly understand him. “Honey, your mother has fallen, I don’t know if she is ok or not and I don’t know what to do!”

You live 10 hours away from home now worried and not sure how your dad is going to handle this. What can you do?

If you are the adult child of an aging parent, then you know that seeing them age can be difficult. As our parents age, we often see their health start to decline. This can be a normal part of aging, but sometimes a change in condition can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. This could come as a stroke or other life changing health challenge. This can become downright scary. When this happens, it can be hard to know what to do or where to turn. Not knowing how to handle the issues could cost you a lot of time and your aging parent a lot of money if you are not prepared.

In this blog post, we'll share some tips on what you can do when your aging parent's condition changes and you're in crisis mode. To help you try and be proactive to prepare for an event you can get our Free Checklist “11 Signs Your Aging Parent or Spouse Needs Help in the Home.” You can Click Here to get the checklist right away.

It's a phone call no one ever wants to get. Your aging parent is in the hospital, and their condition has suddenly changed. You're in crisis mode, and you need to figure out what to do next. Here are some tips to help you through this difficult time. What if they will not be able to return home? Where will they go? Where will they go to get the care that you want them to receive? How do you know what is a good place?

Maybe you get the phone call that your parent has fallen you know there has been some gradual decline, but you were not expecting an injury to occur. Maybe they did not get hurt but you now know they can no longer stay safely at home. How to you begin to sort out what needs to happen next?

If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to remain calm and take things one step at a time.

Here are a few tips on how to cope:

1. First, take a deep breath. This is a lot to process, and it's normal to feel overwhelmed. Remember that you're not alone; there are lots of resources available to help you through this situation.

2. Talk to your parent's doctor. They will be able to give you more information about your parent's condition and what the next steps should be.

3. If your parent can communicate, talk to them about their preferences for care. Do they want to be admitted to a nursing home? Would they prefer in-home care? Respect their wishes as much as possible.

4. If your parent is not able to communicate, you'll need to make decisions about their care based on what you think they would want. Talk to other family members and close friends to get their input.

5. Talk to your other siblings (if you have any). It can be helpful to talk to your brothers or sisters about what is going on. They may be experiencing similar emotions or may have some helpful insights. Even if you don't always see eye-to-eye, coming together for support in a time of crisis is important.

6. Make sure you have all the legal documents in place that you need, such as a power of attorney or advance directive. These will come in handy if you need to make medical decisions on your parent's behalf. It is a good idea to have a “to go” folder or large envelope ready to go in this situation. Make sure a current medication list is included along with any allergies. The name and clinic of your doctor and your Medicare or insurance information is included.

7. Reach out to support groups or counseling services; they can be a great resource during this challenging time.

8. Finally, take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. This is a difficult situation, and it's important to take care of yourself so that you can be there for your parent as much as possible.

The first thing you need to do is assess the situation. Is your parent's condition serious enough that they need to be hospitalized? Or can they continue to live at home with some assistance from you or other family members? Once you have a better understanding of the situation, you can begin to develop a plan of action.

Advocate for your parent. Once you have spoken with your parent's doctor, it is important that you advocate for them and make sure that their needs are being met. This includes making sure they are getting the testing and treatment they need in a timely manner. It can also mean ensuring that they are comfortable and have everything they need while they are in the hospital or receiving care at home.

The next part can get a little tricky. Most people do not understand that with Medicare and most insurance companies in order to admit someone to the hospital they must have a “skilled need”, or the treatment must be medically necessary. Many people get “stuck” in the emergency room because they are medically stable but don’t have a safe discharge plan or a place to go when they are no longer safe at home. Often this is due to some “bad advice” they may have been told. “Go to the ER they will admit you to the hospital until they find a place for you to go.” This is not true in the case of your loved one just needed custodial care and no medical treatment.

At this point the hospital discharge planners whether nurses or social workers will try to find placement while your loved one is still in the Emergency Room. This could take hours or more than a day depending on the availability of facility beds in your community. Having some type of plan in place as your parents age to handle this type of situation would be a great idea.

You can be admitted to the hospital but most likely it will NOT be a covered stay which means the stay will be private pay and out of your parent’s pocket. Many hospitals have a “respite” policy for people just needing custodial care so as a last resort this may be a viable option however it may still be private pay depending on the type of insurance or Medicare plan your loved one may have. You may be asked to sign a “Notice of Non-Coverage” Form explaining that the services your loved one may need will not be medically necessary. There is an appeal process the hospital staff will explain to you.

If your parent does need to be hospitalized, make sure to communicate with their medical team as much as possible. Ask questions, voice concerns, and make sure you understand everything that is happening. It can also be helpful to reach out to other family members and close friends for support during this difficult time.

If your parent is able to remain at home, you'll need to take on a larger caregiving role. This may include helping them with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and eating. You may also need to provide transportation to doctor's appointments and help them manage their medications. It's important to create a schedule or routine for yourself so that you don't get overwhelmed. Be sure to take breaks when you can and ask for help from other family members or friends when needed.

Hiring a Board-Certified Nurse Advocate can take some of the burden off your shoulders. We can interpret the medical treatment plan, assist with putting a plan in place involving your sibling ahead of time to prepare as much as possible for this type of event. We can help you choose the right Assisted Living or Nursing Home that will fit your loved one’s needs and show you how you can choose one based on their past performance and reputation.

We can also come in following a crisis as discussed earlier. We can assist you and your family to put that plan in place going forward and even address things such as conflict and out-of-town family members. There is no reason why you must take this journey alone. We may not be able to prevent the crisis, but we can make sure that you are prepared for what comes next! You can get the peace of mind knowing you have someone in your corner to advocate for your parent, spouse, grandparent, or other loved one in need. Enjoy the feeling of knowing that your family member is in good hands, and you are doing your best for them.

Caring for an aging parent can be a daunting task, especially when their condition changes suddenly and they're hospitalized as a result. However, by taking some time to breathe, talking to the doctor, and getting input from other family members and friends, you can make sure that your parent receives the care they need and that their wishes are respected.

Don't forget to take care of yourself during this difficult time; it's important for both you and your parent that you do so! Reach out to a Nurse Advocate if you need some help.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes with us here today. Our services are just a phone call or email away. To receive our Free Checklist “11 Signs Your Aging Parent May Need Help in the Home” click HERE and we will send it to you right away.

You may also enjoy watching some of our videos on many health-related topics as well as caring for your aging parents you can visit our YouTube Channel HERE. This is a video we shared on When a Crisis Occurs

Take care and we will see you back here soon!


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