CREATING A CAREGIVER PARACHUTE (BACKUP PLAN)
 

 
 
In my travels, I have met and spent time with many caregivers.  We speak about all manner of topics that affect us.  Near the conclusion of a typical meeting, I always ask the caregiver "What plans do you have in place in the event that you are not available to manage the care of your loved one"? The unfortunate answer in most cases is often "none".
 
Not available can mean:
·         Short term or long term illness or injury
·         Job related unavailability such as travel or meetings past business hours
·         Caregiver burn out
·         Caregiver death
 

My experience

It was October 30, 2015, a typical caregiver day at home with my wife.  Suddenly I felt sick with chest pains, sweats, nausea, neck and shoulder pain. In other words, typical symptoms of a Heart Attack!  So, the first thing that comes to my mind should be to call 911, get to the hospital and get treatment before it's too late. That, however, wasn't the case. As absurd as it sounds, I didn't want to call 911 right away because I was afraid that they would come before I had the chance to make arrangements for my wife's care while in the hospital! I learned that I needed a backup plan!
 

Preparing a Plan

I suggest that when putting together a plan, you identify care issues and divide them into three categories: Critical, Essential, and Important. 
 

Identify CRITICAL Issues/Items

The place to start a backup plan begins with identifying the absolutely critical items. Critical can vary depending upon the nature of your loved ones needs. Define critical as "If this doesn't get done, catastrophe will occur".
 
These critical items might include any or all of these items:
·         Medications
·         Oxygen
·         Wandering prevention
·         Falls
·         Choking
·         Behavioral issues
·         Safety in the home.
·         Maintenance of appliances such as in dwelling catheters, medication pumps, etc.
 
Once the critical items are identified it will be part of the plan to determine who will be responsible for the task and providing detailed written instruction on how to perform the task.
 

Identify ESSENTIAL Issues/Items

These items don't necessarily fall into the category of "Life and Death" like the critical items, but they are essential to the proper care of the loved one.
 
These essential items are not limited to, but can include any or all of these items:
·         Toileting/cleansing
·         Lifting/Transferring
·         Sanitary issues
·         Meal schedule
·         Hydration
·         Care for and avoidance of specific conditions such as pressure sores, neuropathy, etc.
 
Again, once identified each item may carry specific instructions in terms of preferences and methodology and should be written in your plan, with detail. 
 

Identify IMPORTANT Issues/Items

These items can be preferences, quality of life issues, activities of daily living, or whatever you and your loved one think that your backup plan should include.
 
·         Mobility -  transferring, use of durable medical devices
·         Therapy
·         Likes and dislikes (Food, TV shows, Activities of Daily Living)
·         Daily Routine Activities and preferences.
 
These are suggestions, as only you and your care partner know the categories and priorities of care items.
 

Other Items to Include In Your Plan

Now that the three categories of your backup plan have been itemized and their execution has been defined, put the "finishing touches" on the plan by making lists, charts, and schedules.  These should include some of these vital documents and where they can be located:
·         Health Care Proxy
·         Durable Power Of Attorney
·         Guardianship
·         Insurance information
·         Will
·         Medical records and contacts
·         Social Services contacts
·         Family members/friends
·         Medication lists and their source include: dosage, time of day, frequency, pharmacy
·         Detailed daily schedule of activities (consider a video taken from a smart phone)
·         Schedule of when Caregivers (either agency Aides or family and friends) are present
 

Putting the Plan into Action

I sometimes refer to the Plan as a "Kit" as it would hopefully provide all the information necessary to successfully act in my place as a caregiver, either temporarily or permanently.
Every person, agency, stakeholder should be aware that you have made up a plan and where it is located. Consider utilizing a binder to organize your information with subject tabs showing the items included within the sections. 
 
With your plan, EVERYONE involved MUST know where it is, how to execute, most importantly, they must agree to be part of it.  Don't be surprised if some of your children, other relatives and friends decline to be part of your plan as it is a big responsibility and caregiving is not for everyone. Knowing in advance who will be looking after your loved one is essential and can be very reassuring.
Venture Forthe offers assistance in creating plan through our Caregiving Consultations please contact your Service Coordinator or Registered Nurse at VFI for a referral.