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Caregiving Tips from a Family Caregiver

This is a guest post from AARP Illinois staffer Kathy Klaper. Check back every Monday morning for more information and resources on caregiving.


Having care conversations with your loved ones can be difficult. Talking about their physical or mental condition can be just as emotional as talking about finances or their end-of-life wishes. However, obtaining a comprehensive medical history, a current list of medications and assessing their home environment are critical steps to ensuring that your loved one gets the care they need, regardless of whether their care is being provided by a family member or a paid caregiver.

As a caregiver for both of my parents, I found that organizing this information in a binder was helpful.  I created tabs for categories such as medical history, mental history, medications, physician's names and contact information, and community, state and national resources. It ensured that everything was kept in one place and could be used by other members of my family if needed. I called it the Care Plan Binder. I also took the binder to doctor's appointments in order to record lab results and other pertinent medical information (hint: always use pencil for recording medications since they often change!).

Dealing With Dementia
Lisa F. Young

Another suggestion I found helpful was to record important information on index cards and keep the cards in a recipe box.  I created separate sections in the recipe box for emergency contacts, physician contacts, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.  I also kept a copy of their insurance cards in the box.  Keeping this box in a kitchen cabinet will be easy to access and save time in an emergency.

When assessing your loved one's living environment, you'll want to watch for safety hazards such as throw rugs and electrical cords.  Pay particular attention to where the furniture is placed to ensure that your loved one can safely maneuver around the house, especially if your loved one requires an assistive device such as a cane or a walker to get around.

If you’re doing an assessment on your own, I suggest using an Assessment Checklist.

If you are planning to hire someone as a caregiver, the caregiving agency will assess your loved one.  Be present during this interview and make sure you get copies of their assessment to keep in your Care Plan Binder. You can use the  Care Provider Locator to find professional caregivers in your local community.

Next Monday, I will be sharing my story as caregiver and why I am so passionate about helping others.

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