Caregiving today is a lot different from what it was just a short time ago. Caregiving technology and new options have improved the situation, especially for long-distance families. The issues and emotions are still the same, but we can do things we never could before. Yet, with all the new options, caregivers may find it harder to know what’s best. We’ll share Part 2 of our family’s caregiving story (check out part 1 here) and some great resources we’ve discovered. Our team also shares tips to analyze which options will work best for you.
Caregiving Today: Communications, Caregiving Technology, and Choices
Grandma’s Story: Part 2
As we dealt with my grandmother’s situation, technology enabled me to handle things from afar. Several days after her fall, her pain was not getting better. The doctor recommended we take her to the ER for another X-ray. It turns out she had broken her hip.
Now a whole new round of coordination and decision-making began. Was grandma healthy enough for the surgery? Her doctor confirmed she was. Next, I called the home care company to get a plan into place. Grandma would need 24/7 care after surgery. The timing would just depend on whether we opted for going straight home or to inpatient rehab. I wanted consistent caregivers and this would take a whole team. Having an online care plan and management system would make everything easier for me from afar.
A common challenge for families today is keeping everyone in the loop. My parents were still on their trip to Vietnam so we had a big time difference. Fortunately, we could use a messenger program to update everyone easily. Then, we used Skype or Facetime to have live chats. This gave me a lot of reassurance.
With all the options available today, this really is a whole new kind of caregiving. It used to be that there was pretty much one path. I reflected how different this was from my Mom’s experience of her family caring for their grandmother. The same surgery was so much riskier that her grandmother (much younger) was deemed too old. They had virtually no options for caregiving except family care or a poor-quality nursing home.
But, More Decisions
However, this also means caregivers today are faced with more decision-making. So often people look for the “right” choice. I found in my business that there is no such thing as the “right” decision. Based on the information at the time you can make the best decision. It's what happens to be “right” at the time. However, I’ve seen what a difference it makes to have an expert to talk it through. Caregivers tell us working with a care manager gave them confidence in their decisions. They understand pros and cons of options better. This reduces the pressure. And, the care manager is there to help along the way.
In our case, Grandma’s surgery went well. We had to decide between inpatient rehab and recovering at home with 24/7 care. Fortunately, it’s no longer a low-quality nursing home or nothing. There was a nearby rehab facility with a good reputation. You can review Medicare and state facility ratings online. But it’s best to have inside scoop from a care manager or other health professional. To be honest, many doctors don’t know this info. You need someone who’s worked closely with clients in the facility. Our home care company gave us feedback from their experiences with the rehab facility.
We weighed the pros and cons. Luckily, I know Medicare rules and all the considerations well. It’s important to understand costs and coverage of different options. Medicare covers medically-necessary inpatient rehab for 20 days at 100% and up to 100 days with a copay/supplemental coverage. This generally includes all costs (meals, rehab, nursing care, etc.). Additionally, you’ll want to consider the comfort of the environment. If your loved one goes home, what equipment and staff will be needed? How will they get to follow-up care? What type and extent of services will be available in each case?
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the comfort of the environment. If your loved one goes home, what equipment and staff will be needed? How will they get to follow-up care? What type and extent of services will be available in each case?
Discharge Planning and Transitions
We had a couple short days to plan discharge but I could do it all from home. Unfortunately, the hospital scheduled Grandma’s discharge for Sunday. Avoid weekend discharges if you can. It’s not the ideal time to move to a new setting, which inevitably has less staff available. But, in today’s environment, things move quickly at the hospital. You may need a patient advocate to talk through options and communicate concerns.
We coordinated with the home care company for a nighttime caregiver. Grandma's confusion had increased. A one-on-one caregiver ensured her safety and provided personal attention.
When she was ready to return home, I flew in to oversee the process. You can do most anything from a distance nowadays but it’s also so easy (and relatively cheap) to fly in at key times. Because of our planning, this wasn’t a crisis visit. I could see things were set up well and enjoy some time together.
Caregiving Technology: Resources
Companies develop new innovations constantly. Here are a few items to consider. Stay up-to-date on our Facebook page for the latest and best options.
- Amazon Echo Show: “drop in” to see your loved one and chat. Hands-free, nothing to learn. You can see your loved one in their surroundings.
- Online care management tools enabled us to have all of Grandma’s information at hand. We use a system called ClearCare's family portal. Save time and headaches. Communicate with anyone, anytime.
- Personal emergency response systems: "I've fallen and can't get up" bracelets/necklaces. Check out modern options like FallCall, systems with GPS and other capabilities and sensor-based systems.
- Health monitoring: You no longer need to go into a clinic or have a nurse visit for everything. Systems like KardiaMobile offer a smartphone-connected electrocardiogram that detects abnormal heart rhythms. View results on the app, share with your doctor.
- Reminder apps
- Electronic pillboxes (with sensors, alarms, etc.)
- Home care medication management: handling refills, filling pillboxes, monitoring. Increases effectiveness of technology; reduces medication misuse.
- Social robots, task-focused robots, Virtual Reality, AI
- Communication/connection apps, sites, etc.
- Brain health programs
These technologies have the potential to revolutionize caregiving and aging. For the elder and the caregiver, the world is full of new possibilities.
How do we decide what’s right for us?
As we’ve seen time and time again, there is no “right” decision. But, a good assessment of your personal situation can help you make an informed decision. Making a choice begins with understanding the situation...capabilities, challenges, and needs. From there, it’s easier to eliminate certain options and prioritize. Otherwise, you just end up down the rabbit hole of Google. And, in today’s healthcare environment there’s no time.
People will probably tell you what worked for their parent or friend. But, the final analysis depends on your loved one’s needs and desires. And, then there’s the matter of the practicalities...costs, coverage, time, resources, etc. Knowing these factors, you can narrow down the options for discussion. Planning and being organized will also prepare you to manage changes. Caregiving’s not straightforward...things are likely to change.