Atlanta caregivers, and family caregivers across the country, are “routinely marginalized and ignored within the health care system.” So says the latest report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. With around 18 million family members providing care for an older loved one, this report is alarming, as neglect of the caregivers can result in seniors at risk for harm due to uninformed, inadequate care.
As a dedicated family caregiver, here’s what you can do to be sure you are seen, heard, and given the proper information and tools to keep your elderly family member safe:
- Make sure your name and phone number are listed in your loved one’s medical records as an emergency contact.
- Inform your loved one’s doctors what you are and are not able to handle with regard to his or her care.
- Be realistic when you set care expectations for yourself. For example, if you need to leave home for work for a period of time and your loved one may need care during that time, you will need to find a solution.
- Inquire about training in the senior’s individual health care needs, such as dressing wounds or catheter care.
- Look for and access resources such as disease-specific associations, the local Area Agency on Aging, and a respected professional home care agency for supplemental/respite care.
It’s equally important to clearly understand HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. There is a very common misconception that because of HIPAA, relatives are not able to obtain access to their older loved one’s medical records. The truth, however, is that assuming that the senior has assigned someone to serve as durable power of attorney for medical information, it’s the duty of doctors and hospital staff to share all medical records with that member of the family.
The bottom line? Make sure that you stand up for yourself and your loved one. Richard Schulz of the University of Pittsburgh recommends, “Advocate for your rights and make sure your caregiving contributions are recognized and supported to the extent they can be. You’re an important person in the health care system.”
If you’re a family caregiver in Atlanta, call on the home Care Atlanta experts, Atlanta Home Care Partners at (404) 228-0103 to get more recommendations on providing the most effective care for your senior family member, as well as assistance in filling in the care gaps with fully trained and seasoned in home caregivers.