- If you don't have Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), you probably should. I needed this document in order to act on my grandmother's behalf when she entered the nursing home for rehab. It also gives me the authority I need when talking to representatives for her prescription drug insurance coverage, the bank, the Department of Human Services (DHS), and even the utility companies. You can download forms from the Internet for starting the DPOA process, but you may need to consult an attorney to make sure everything is in order, and most certainly you will need a notary.
- Keep a list of your loved one's medications - and the dosages - in your wallet, so that you have it handy if/when he/she needs medical attention. (For that matter, keep one for yourself, too!) I have saved a lot of time and frustration on several occasions by being able to hand this list to a medical person. They were able to photocopy the list and/or quickly note the info in their files and return my list. If you don't do this, you are setting yourself up to someday be faced with repeating this information numerous times to different medical personnel. Save yourself the frustration - keep an up-to-date list handy!
- Keep a list of your loved one's "numbers" - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid (if applicable), checking account, insurance policy numbers, utility accounts, and even burial information (if there are pre-arrangements and/or a burial insurance policy).
- Make a list of persons to contact in case of emergency. This, again, is a list that can save you some heartache down the road. More than once, in the frenzy of trying to handle an emergency situation, I have forgotten to contact a cousin or two about my grandmother, and I paid for it later! I now have "the list," and I keep it in my wallet!
- Make copies of your loved one's keys - house, vehicle, etc., in case of emergency.
- Once you have DPOA, you should probably get a signature card for your loved one's checking account, and if there is a safety deposit box, you should probably get on "the list" to be able to access it.
- If your loved one has a Living Will, be sure you have a copy (or copies). If your loved one does not have a Living Will, I strongly encourage you to consider getting this document. It could save everyone a lot of anguish down the road. If YOU don't have a Living Will, you need one, too!
You may think of other things you need to list/localize, so that caring for your loved one is as "un-complicated" as possible. If you have additional ideas that you feel would be helpful, please share them. When it comes to caring for the elderly, the phrase "it takes a village" certainly applies. And remember, as caregivers, we must think about keeping our own "house" in order. If something happens to us, we need to have everything in shape for whoever takes our place so that your loved one's care and well being are uninterrupted.