Preparing for a Doctor Visit
With the increase in the number of older adults living longer, comes the added pressure on our current medical system to manage these growing numbers. To help the patient prepare for a physician visit, it is recommended that time be taken ahead of the appointment to ensure that all of your questions are responded to by the primary care doctor. 1) bring your medications, or a list, of all medications and supplements; 2) write down any problems you are experiencing from the medications, such as dizziness, headaches, insomnia, etc; 3) write down questions you have regarding treatment or specific therapies; and 4) write down the responses to your questions.
We know that physical activity that provides a minimum of 30 minutes a day is just as important as eating a healthy diet. Physical activity is not only healthy for the muscular and skeletal system but has been found to help decrease the onset of depression, as well as helps to reduce stress. In addition, exercise can help to minimize weight gain and can help with some sleeping difficulties. Naturally, before engaging in any type of physical activity we strongly recommend talking with your primary care physician first, as well as during subsequent follow-up visits regarding your regimen.
Psychological Related Issues
Depression and Anxiety – Both depression and anxiety are treatable. It is not unusual for individuals to experience changes in their mood as their life changes. There are many unexpected events that take place that we are not always prepared to handle such as a loss of spouse, siblings, or friends. There is no need to fear seeking professional advice from a trained and licensed professional social worker who is prepared to assist you in managing these new life changes.
Caregiver Stress – One major reason a family member ends up residing in skilled nursing is because of caregiver stress by the primary caregiver. It is important to recognize the signs and signals, seek professional help, or join a specific caregiver support group. Many times caregivers will experience some of the following: an increase in frustration, headaches, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, feelings of anxiety, social isolation and separation from friends, and increase in chronically related health problems.
Maintaining a Healthy Brain – As we age, there is the fear that we will become increasingly forgetful and eventually develop some form of a dementia. To help prevent the early onset of a dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, “exercising” our brain on a daily basis is recommended. Simple activities such as having a discussion with friends on world and national events, crossword puzzles, word games, board games, card games are some suggestions. Physical activity, attending social events, the theater, movies, and concerts can also be helpful. Avoid spending long hours watching television passively by incorporating an exercise routine at the same time. Also keep in mind that a healthy diet can also lead to a healthy brain.
Social Related Services
Family Support – Reconnecting and maintaining family connections is of particular value as we grow older. This may be the time to address the issues that separated the family through the use of a trained licensed social worker who specializes in working with families. Perhaps it would be better for family members to begin this healing process in order to garner support for each other at this time when things seem to be going well instead of when there is a crisis or death in the family.
Adult Day Programs – Social interaction with age appropriate peers can be enjoyable for those who may not even like to socialize. Many state supported programs exist which offer a variety of services for the elderly. Senior centers offer organized activities for the independent adult, adult day programs can provide the necessary relief or respite care of someone who is experiencing signs of early onset dementia, and adult day health services provide a comprehensive list of medical and social oriented services for persons living on Medicaid.
Senior Services – There are a wide range of human and health services for persons within all economic ranges. There are programs that can help people who might otherwise be placed in a skilled nursing facility to stay at home and there are services for families experiencing living with someone who has a dementia-related disease. Some families benefit from working with a trained geriatric professional care manager who can help with identifying resources and navigate through the issues of helping an aging parent or family member.
Financial Related Services – Paying for care, especially if you want to continue living in your current environment can be just as expensive as living in an assisted living facility. Many families may choose to utilize their existing home to pay for care through a reverse mortgage or equity loan. It is recommended that before considering such an action that the family engage the services of a professional care manager to assess the benefits and your capability to remain in your home first, followed by the discussion as to the best way to fund the plan of action. It is best to discuss long-term financial planning with a certified financial planner, as well as your accountant.
Medicaid Long-Term Care – The funding of Medicaid is currently in flux with potential changes in financial qualifications under discussion. Eligibility is determined by meeting specific financial requirements. The program is intended to provide care and treatment for those who are in financial need and in some cases may not have enough income to cover the cost associated with a long-term care facility. Professional social workers can answer questions regarding eligibility qualifications and benefits through this government-funded program.
Legal Related Services – It is highly recommended that individuals, regardless of their income/financial status, consider composing a Living Trust or will. With these documents individuals can discuss with an attorney an estate plan that will help protect the family’s assets, as well as designate whom will have responsibility for making legal decisions if the person becomes unable to make decisions for themselves based on health issues. Typically included in these documents is a Medical Directive that provides specific instructions as to your desires and wishes if you become incapacitated to make such decisions.
Care Management Services
Services to help you implement a plan of care will be based on your decision about where you want to live. In many situations, families may want to consider hiring professional geriatric care manager/social worker and paying for the services provided on a fee-for-service basis. Before selecting a care manager you may want to first consider your preferred long-term care goals. He or she can help you select a home care agency and identify an assisted living facility.