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Andrea Brassard Answers Your Caregiving Questions

AARP's expert offers advice on caring for a loved one

Are you confused about how to find the best care for a loved one? This transcript of a live online chat with Andrea Brassard, senior strategic policy adviser for the Center to Champion Nursing in America — an initiative of AARP, AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — may be able to help.

See also: My mother doesn't like her nursing home.

I don't feel that my dad's doctor is taking him seriously. Is there anything I can do?

In my experience, sometimes patients minimize their complaints or don't speak up. First suggestion: If possible, go with your dad to the doctor.

Second suggestion: Use the phrase "I'm concerned" when talking about your dad's symptoms. You might need to keep saying "I'm concerned" until you are heard.

How do I know if I should keep Mom at home or move her to an assisted living facility?

It really depends on your mom and on you. What are your mom's needs and how can she best get the help she needs? AARP has a helpful resource on assessing your loved ones. And here's an AARP resource specific to assisted living if that seems to be the right path.

I have a friend whose elderly father is in a SNF [skilled nursing facility]. After repeated episodes of dehydration/kidney failure, he is once again in acute care and cannot get answers. Seems the staff are not communicating with one another, the care is uncoordinated and the M.D.s don't seem to know what is going on. The daughter refuses to make her father DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] as she is afraid he will be further neglected. Who is ultimately responsible as care goes on?

Your friend should start by talking with the nurse who is taking care of her father. If your friend feels that she is not being heard, know that the head nurse or unit manager is responsible for all the care on his or her unit. Use "I'm concerned" language. Please tell your friend to consider palliative care — comfort care. The palliative care team will make sure that her father will not be neglected.

My husband just had surgery and the hospital discharged him quickly. I'm expected to give antibiotics intravenously. I can't believe I'm expected to do this myself! I'm terrified of doing it wrong — especially keeping a sterile environment.

The AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund just released a report, "Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Care." We learned that many family caregivers manage their loved ones' medications, including intravenous medications. But it's not easy. You should get some help with this. Talk to the hospital discharge planner. Ask for your husband to be referred to a visiting nurse association or a home health agency. When patients receive IV medications at home, there is a high-tech pharmacy involved. Assertively communicate with the pharmacy that you need training and guidance. In my experience as a home health nurse, I trained many families and was impressed with their devotion and care. This isn't easy, but you can do it.

My mom needs more help these days but I'm not local and can't help her much. She wants to stay in her own home. Do you know if Medicare or Medicaid will cover any home care? She lives in New York.

Medicare covers very limited home health care — primarily following a hospital stay. Medicaid covers more long-term home care. Benefits vary by state, but New York has more generous Medicaid home health coverage than most states. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging. Be persistent. I know from personal experience that it's not easy being a long-distance caregiver.

Next: What's the difference between hospice and palliative care?

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