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How to Cope With a Caregiving Crisis

When you're a caregiver, drama is inevitable

Select a family spokesperson

"Some people think better when they're in a crisis," says Fleischer. "And some people become so scattered." Figure out who in your family performs best under pressure and designate him or her as the one to interact with doctors, nurses, social workers and other hospital personnel.

If no one is up to this task, or you're a long-distance caregiver, Fleischer suggests hiring a geriatric care manager (GCM). A GCM, which costs between $50 and $200 an hour, can coordinate information between doctors and help you figure out the next step after the hospital stay, whether it's establishing supports necessary to return home or choosing the best assisted living or nursing home for your parent's needs. For long-distance caregivers, a GCM can also help you determine whether you need to hop on the next plane or you can wait a couple of days. Some employers provide GCM services as part of their benefit packages, so call your provider and ask what elder care services are offered.

Establish one information source

Once a crisis happens, your cellphone will likely be overloaded with voice mails, text messages and emails from concerned family and friends. Telling the same story again and again can be mentally exhausting, says Fleischer. Websites such as or allow you to write updates in blog form and send them to a mailing list of your choosing. Fleischer suggests you set up a site before a crisis occurs, so that it's ready to go if and when you need it.

Be objective

Yes, Dad adamantly wants to go back home after leaving the hospital. But as a caregiver, it's your job to do a reality check, says Fleischer. Is the home a safe place for him to be? Is he mentally competent to live alone? Can he afford in-home care? If living independently is no longer an option, what locations are available and what can he afford?

Fleischer recommends checking out assisted living and nursing home facilities in your area before a crisis happens so you have some idea of which places you like and which you don't, as well as what your parents can afford. If you didn't do this, the hospital social worker or a GCM can direct you to an appropriate facility.

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