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Who Takes Care of the Caregiver? Part 1

Bonnie Friedman - December 07, 2016 01:08 PM

“What if I don’t have any family to be with me at the hospital?”

Sometimes this question comes from older adults who live alone and have no family nearby. But it also arises when caregivers wonder who will help take care of them. A caregiver’s life is dedicated to the well-being of a loved one. But what if the caregiver becomes the one in need?

Hospitals are complicated places with complex systems that are difficult to navigate. Patients are rarely in a good position to advocate effectively for their own needs. Flat on their backs, sick and weak, they need someone to speak up on their behalf to make sure they get the best care possible.

Ideally, a family member is the best person for the job. Just because you have no family nearby doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. There are things you can do to help yourself in advance and at the hospital, if you become the patient.  Part 1 of this blog is about advance planning.  Part 2 will address steps to consider while in the hospital.

Advance Planning

1.    Investigate nursing agencies in your area so you have information on hand about hiring a private nurse full time or just for a few hours a day; critical periods may include early morning when doctors do rounds or later in the day when lab reports may result in medication, diagnostic or treatment changes.
2.    Seek out eldercare caregiver options in your community, if you are a senior. Go to to search for services in your area.  The locator is provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging. You can also call them at 800-677-1116.

3.    Look into hiring a geriatric care manager, again if you are a senior. Contact the Aging Life Care Association (formerly the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) to identify and select the help you need. Go online: Or call them at 520-881-8008.

4.    Join a village or other aging-in-place organization in your community if one is available. Find out what support services are offered to members. Go to the Village to Village network to see if there is one near you:

5.    Consider asking a close friend to serve as a personal advocate in case you must go to the hospital. Make sure that person is up to date on your medications, medical history and preferences. Consider giving that person medical power of attorney to act on your behalf if necessary.

6.    If there is a nearby hospital where you most likely would be admitted, make arrangements for your legal documents such as an advance directive or medical power of attorney to be on file there. Provide names and phone numbers of important contacts.

7.    Tell your primary care physician about your concerns. While this doctor most likely won’t be in charge of your hospital care, he or she may have additional recommendations to help you.

Bonnie Friedman is a speaker, blogger and author on healthcare advocacy. Her book, Hospital Warrior: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One, is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. More information is on her website:

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