Make your life easier – hacks for being a caregiver

Here are a few things that have made my life easier as a caregiver:

  • Code locks on family member’s home – I hate when I’ve needed to get into mom’s house, but can’t because I left her keys at home.  A code lock has vastly improved my life in that I don’t have to go home to get a copy of mom’s keys.  The one I have is this one here.
  • A small safe mounted to the wall – Medication is expensive – I keep it locked and make only one week’s worth of medication available at a time.  When in an episode or pre-clinical, just a day’s worth of medication is made available.  Pay cash for an Invega Sustenna XR injection just once, the safe is worth the investment.  Also, if you hire caregivers, you’re going to have a lot of people in and out of the house.  Locking up jewelry, medication, checkbooks and anything else that you don’t want to walk out the door or run the risk of being destroyed is a prudent thing to do.  This is the one I have.
  • Carrying an extra set of keys to the car – I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to recover mom’s car from a location.  If I first had to go to her house to get a key or find a way to meet up with her, it’d just add to what is usually already a logistical nightmare.  I keep a copy of her car key with me almost everywhere I go.
  • Going into healthcare provider’s offices and meeting staff in-person – This has been huge.  Whenever mom has a new healthcare provider, I make it a point to go into the office, in person, to introduce myself.  I also bring copies of all of our legal paperwork like Healthcare Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and also a copy of Guardianship paperwork.  This cuts down on a lot of the “who are you” discussion if I need to get information later on.  This includes going to the pharmacy.
  • Staying in regular contact with healthcare providers to update them on significant changes – Whenever mom has an episode, I generally will send a communication to mom’s providers to let them know what is going on.  I keep the communications short, factual, and fax them to the provider.  This way the provider is up to speed prior to any scheduled appointment.  I have found that provider’s appreciate being kept informed and it saves a tremendous amounts of time during office visits.
  • Keep a credit card designated for expenses related to patient’s care  – This greatly reduces the risk of co-mingling my money with mom’s money.  If it is an expense for mom, it goes on her credit card.
  • Meet with banks to deliver and execute powers of attorney –  Banks are highly suspect of folks coming in and working under the guise of a power of attorney.  I have made it a point to go to my mom’s bank with her to deliver a copy of her financial power of attorney and to be added to her account as such.  Despite having a perfectly good power of attorney in hand, some banks have required us to execute their form power of attorney that was drafted by their legal department.
  • Hire a nurse to setup med-planners once a month – You know those pill boxes that have a flap for a day of the week.  As your parent ages, they will be seeing specialists and a general practitioner.  Often times, both physicians are writing scripts.  Some meds are taken in the morning, some at night.  To help me keep everything straight, I’ve hired a private nurse to come in and setup mom’s medications.  I have eight med-planners.  One set of four is for the morning, the other four for the evening.  The nurse sorts the medications and doses everything into the planners.  The cost?  Around $75.00.  Money well spent.
  • Outsourcing certain activities – Between doctors appointments, grocery shopping, getting and getting random items, helping a sick or elderly parent can become all consuming.  The key to doing it is knowing when to outsource a task.  For me, I’ve outsourced grocery shopping, I use www.instacart.com to do all of mom’s grocery shopping.  For rides, I set up an Uber account for mom.  And, of course, setting up an Amazon account for mom has helped in getting items she wants or needs delivered to her front door.  The amount of time I have saved from having to do these tasks personally is invaluable.
  • Having paperwork at hand – I maintain a 1-inch binder with all of my mom’s important documents.  A copy of Letters of Guardianship, a copy of POAs, and other documents that will be handy in the midst of a crisis.  I also keep her SSN, and bank account information listed in this notebook.  If I am conducting mom business, I keep it with me.  I also have all of this information scanned into seperate pdf files on my desktop, so it is on-hand to be sent to a provider when asked.

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