March 14, 2011

Important Information for Elder Caregivers

It is important to talk to parent(s) while they are legally able. Talk with your parent(s) while they are able to make decisions and prepare the way legally for their care. If you are the only child or the trusted family member, make sure that you have copies of any medical records they want you to have and that if you do not, make sure that they have legal documents in place so that you can obtain copies if necessary.

Caring for your parent(s) or other close relatives can be very stressful. If they are living in their home, there are many problems to be anticipated and activities to be ready for in order to take action. If your parents have a power outage, what will need to be done. Natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, floods are very hard to prepare for but plans need to be made. A car hitting a power pole or a lightening strike taking a transformer out can be more than an inconvenience, but these can be handled.

These problems mean actions that must be taken if a parent is on oxygen systems or a ventilator. These machines can produce life threatening circumstances. Some oxygen systems require electrical power to produce oxygen. Ventilators require electrical power and a generator backup to continue functioning.

For oxygen, having a spare backup tank can save the day, but the people assisting need training in switching over the tank. Oxygen should never be used near an open flame and smoking must be prohibited in the residence. Backup generators run on gasoline and must be outside the house in a covered place. Placement is an important consideration as is access. I would seriously consider a battery operated electric starter. All caregivers must be familiar with the operation of equipment and emergency operations.

Know the laws in your state for the operations of equipment and requirements for placement and operation. Contact the utility companies for cooperation and to notify them of power or gas needs and what equipment is being used. They can sometimes offer special rates and have other suggestions for assistance.

Then there is other electrical equipment, such as electric beds, air-loss mattresses, and air-mattress toppers that use electricity for the pumps. The beds generally don't have problems in power outages as they have hand cranks for use. The other systems can have built in battery backups and their use needs training to know their use. Another essential activity is surprise emergency drills that need to be in place to test the caregivers and equipment.

Then there is suction equipment, IV pumps, and other electrical devices that may be used in the patient's home. Most have battery backups and again caregivers need to be trained in switching in the event of a power outage and for all associated safety precautions.

These indicate a lot of plans to be made and how complicated the situations can be when caring for a parent or close relative. Don't get me wrong, this is something that often needs to be done and a family member is often an excellent solution.

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