Blog Series-Becoming The Caregiver
**This picture is my grandparents back when they were dating in 1940. Aren't they adorable?**
This is the first in a series that I'm going to do on becoming the caregiver. What does that mean, you ask? Aren't I already the caregiver by being the mother?
Yes, you are. But, what I mean is becoming the caregiver of your parents. Or even grandparents, if you are that lucky. I have long been the "secretary" for my husband and in recent years have been slowly taking over for his parents. (My parents have both passed) My father in law is 81 and my mother in law is 77. They are in fairly good health, but my father in law has chronic leukemia. They call me their secretary/nurse now.
I am learning all of this as I go. Which is how I do most things. Google teaches me a lot. No one has a handbook for parenting and no one has one for taking care of aging parents. Which leads me to this series. I hope that at least one person can learn from my trial and error.
Now, the first thing that you need to do as a caregiver is learn all doctor information. Start a file folder just for this information. You will need all doctor names, phone numbers, account numbers. The list can get pretty long. We have their regular doctors, oncologist, eye doctor, in town pharmacy, mail order pharmacy, and my father in law's chemo pharmacy. You also have to make sure that your parents sign the HIPAA forms giving the drs permission to speak with you. I think it gives them a sense of security knowing that instead of trying to figure out who to call when something is wrong, they just call me. Some problems don't need a phone call to the doctor. I help figure that out. They have a hard time hearing on the phone and are notorious for not telling you that they didn't hear you or pretending like they understand. After I get all the information from the doctor or nurse, I write it down and then go over it with them as many times as they need and they can ask all the questions that they need to. This is especially important with my father in law's oncologist. My father in law has told me before that that's one of the reasons why he wants me to go because I "explain things so he understands". Doctors sometimes don't realize that people don't understand all the medical jargon and don't always put it in layman's terms. That's part of the caregiver's job!
Along with the doctor information, you should keep a list of their medications and what dosages they take in the file folder. This way, you have it with you when you speak to the nurses and can tell them what they are taking. Thankfully, my in laws medication lists aren't that long. Only 3-4. But, it could get longer and it's easier to reference a paper than trying to remember.
The second thing is to learn about their insurance, which I will go into detail in the next segment of this series. Medicare is a lovely program full of twists and turns and deductibles and restrictions. I am slowly learning. More on Medicare to come.
So, what have we learned today? Sign HIPAA forms, keep list of doctors, their numbers, pharmacies, medications and dosages. Get a file folder. Maybe two. It can be a stressful job. But, keeping good records will help. And some days, a glass of wine and a hot bath. That helps too.