Accidents happen. This well-known fact makes it imperative for the caregiver to devise a backup plan. This plan must be designed to have another person available who can take over responsibilities in case of emergencies.
Let’s say you trip over something and sprain or break your ankle. While you’re sitting with your foot elevated, the person living with dementia that you’re caring for will constantly ask, “What happened to your foot?” You know how tiring it is to be asked over and over about your injuries. Well, now you will be asked twenty to thirty times a day and that’s probably an extremely low estimate.
So now you’ll be hobbling around trying to care for the both of you. This is not a good scenario, trust me. I’ve been there.
It is the primary caregiver’s responsibility to make sure there’s someone always ready, willing and trained to step in when there’s an emergency. (I truly understand this is easier said than done.) I’m not just talking about broken bones here; there are doctors’ appointments, medications, financial matters, etc. The list is long and you know it. What happens if you die? Make certain ahead of time that the fate of your loved one will be placed in the right hands. If you have power of attorney or legal guardianship, papers need to be drawn up to have someone responsible enough to take charge should you not be there. Do you really want the court to decide? No? I didn’t think so.
Unfortunately, if this actually happens, you won’t be here. Decisions must be made now! Meet with an elder law attorney and have the appropriate papers drawn up. Explain the entire situation and that someone must be able to legally step in and make the proper decisions in your absence. Since the one you’re caring for is unable to handle his or her own affairs, you must get busy immediately on this master plan.
You, as the caregiver, are of the utmost importance in the life of your loved one. Meet with your family members or friends and put a backup plan together. I know this is all easy said than done, but you never know when something bad could happen.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc, CDCS
Director of Dementia Education
Dementia Spotlight Foundation