After a loved one has undergone major surgery, it is often the after-care that leaves family members feeling overwhelmed. While lots of help is offered during a crisis, in the long weeks of recovery, assistance can drop off significantly. That’s why advance planning for caregiving is so crucial and by scheduling visits, food preparation, cleaning, running errands or drives to appointments, the load can be more evenly distributed. Recovery can run more smoothly and alleviate too heavy a load on one person with a good strategy.
When adult children work together to assist their aging parents, it’s important to include mom or dad and their spouse in the planning process. In many cases, family isn’t nearby to offer ongoing assistance and home care will be necessary. By looking into the cost of a visiting nurse, skilled care worker or home health aid and investigating what expenses insurance will cover, unpleasant surprises can be avoided. Talk with hospital staff such as a social worker or discharge manager as soon as possible to get a clear idea of what support will be required in recovery.
Although women have traditionally taken on the lion’s share of caregiving, the workforce has changed and wives, mothers, sisters, and aunts are likely to have their own career responsibilities in addition to family duties. Dividing tasks by individual strengths will help guide the process of devising a plan for after care. Remember that older adults often need an advocate during recovery to help navigate the health care system. By having a caregiver attend check ups and help write a list of questions and concerns, recovery can be made less stressful and more successful.
We are fortunate to live in a time when technology can be a tremendous help to organize the lives of busy people. By setting up an online sign-up, family members and friends who want to help out can participate without intruding or over-stepping. Sites like www.mealtrain.com or lotsahelpinghands.com allow an organizer to have meals delivered over a period of time, rides provided and give a large group regular updates. Patients in recovery can also create a care site at www.carepages.com, or www.caringbridge.org to send updates to everyone at once, share photos and receive messages of support from friends and family without the stress of constant phone calls, emails or texts.
Websites are wonderful for organizing caregiving and help during a time of illness or recovery but they don’t replace an in person visit. The web is a great vehicle to let others know when the patient is ready for visitors but always clear any posts with the individual to make sure they approve. Privacy and respect are important in creating helpful and supportive care team.
To learn more about caring for someone after heart surgery or stroke, visit www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Caregiver/Resources/CaringforSomeoneAfterHeartSurgery/Caring-for-Someone-After-Heart-Surgery_UCM_301857_Article.jsp#.V4_hf441iQk .