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    Starting Your Role As Caregiver

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    The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take an unpaid leave from your job to care for a family member in need. You must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past twelve months to be eligible, and you may take up to twelve weeks a year.

    Always have a Plan B.

    Learn as you go; don't try to do everything all at once. Avoid information overload.

    Take a seminar in caregiving. Such seminars are often offered through your local Red Cross or Area Agency on Aging (AAA). The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging can put you in touch with the AAA in your neighborhood (see Resources).

    Getting Organized As a Caregiver

    If you're generally a disorganized person, this is a good time to acquire new skills. Staying organized means keeping files for everything, including receipts, insurance company correspondence, and other useful items you'll want to have on hand for later reference.

    Start with an accordion file. Dedicate yourself to maintaining it; it will make your life easier in so many ways.

    Take inventory of the following documents and make a list of their locations. If most of the important documents are to be kept with your loved one, consider making copies for yourself to keep at home. Some of these items may not apply to your senior, but keep track of those that do and take care of loose ends this list may remind you of:

    • Birth certificate
    • Social security card
    • Passport
    • Pension and retirement information
    • Medicare card
    • Health insurance policies and card(s)
    • Prescription plan card
    • Medical assistance card
    • Disability insurance policy
    • Home insurance policy
    • Property deeds and titles
    • Rental or mortgage agreement
    • Will
    • Living will or advance directives
    • Health care directives
    • Medical proxy
    • Durable power of attorney
    • Checkbook
    • Deposit (bank) book
    • Safe deposit box key(s) and bank name
    • Investment records (stocks, bonds, etc.)
    • Car title(s) or registration(s)
    • Car insurance
    • Military records
    • Funeral instructions
    • Burial property information

    Get a small notebook and use it as your caregiver diary. Keep lists of your parent's medications and their dosages. Make an entry for every health episode, describing the problem, the solution, the attending physician, and so forth. Keep this book with you always! This diary will serve as an invaluable document down the line when doctors require a complete history. (And it will save you from tearing your hair out when you are asked these questions umpteen times!)

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