Get answers from seniors to tough questions

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published May 10, 2011

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As difficult as it is to ask an aging parent or loved one about personal finances, for a detailed medical history or what their final wishes are, the alternative is worse, say local senior advocates.

In an effort to help caregivers be ready with information in the event of a midnight call that a parent or loved one has plunged into sudden health crisis, the Home Instead Senior Care Network, with assistance from Humana Points of Caregiving, has developed the Senior Emergency Kit. The kit’s worksheets are designed to help caregivers manage information.

The Home Instead Senior Care network consists of locally owned franchises offering in-home care.

The kit aims to help caregivers gather details about a senior’s doctors, pharmacy and insurance company, medications and dosages, as well as allergies, power of attorney and other important information. It includes a medication tracker, a health care proxy, a doctor visit worksheet and a large refrigerator magnet to list information about medications.

The free kit is available online at www.senioremergencykit.com, or by calling (248) 203-2273 or (586) 992-0100.

“We’ve seen the turmoil that such an emergency creates, and we’ve also witnessed how much smoother it can go when families are prepared,” said Tina Rowley, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving southeast Oakland County. “This resource will provide family caregivers with the tools they need to be ready for the unexpected.”

The Boomer Project, a group that gathers information and insight about baby boomers’ consumer habits, conducted a 15-minute online survey for the Home Instead Senior Care network of 611 U.S. adults ages 45-65 that said they are likely to assume a caregiver role for their parents within the next 10 years.

According to those survey results, less than half (47 percent) say they know about their parents’ medical histories in case of an emergency.

Rowley said that spouses often do not know what medications or the dosages taken by one another.

A survey conducted by AARP revealed that 70 percent of adult children have not talked to their parents about issues related to aging.

“Many do not know what medical coverage their parents have, or if they have coverage in addition to Medicare,” said Jenny Jarvis, communications director for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that receives funding through the Older Americans Act to provide information and access to services for older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

Any person 60 and older who resides in that six-county region is potentially eligible for agency services that are funded by either the Older Americans Act or the Older Michiganians Act. The AAA 1-B can provide access to and information on more than 5,000 in-home and community services, such as personal care, respite for caregivers, homemaking, meals and transportation.

Jarvis noted that powers of attorney — both a durable power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for health care — are very important.

A durable power of attorney designates an agent to handle financial affairs in the event an individual is unable to do so. According to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, Michigan leads the nation in the number of adults who have court-appointed guardianships.

A durable power of attorney for health care allows the senior to name someone to make medical and treatment decisions if the senior is unable to do so.

Rowley said the best way to approach a senior for the needed information is in a comfortable, easy atmosphere.

“Get the conversation going,” she said. “Share each other’s thoughts on (do not resuscitate orders) and say you want to be sure you are doing what they want done, not what you want done.”

If you’re really hitting a roadblock in gleaning the senior’s information, enlist the help of the senior’s trusted friend, clergy person or physician, Rowley said.

And keep the information updated, Rowley added. “That’s the key to being on top of things, and not in panic mode if something happens.”

For information about AAA 1-B, visit www.aaa1b.com, or call (248) 357-2255 or (586) 226-0309.

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