As a society, we’ve become much more mobile. Gone are the days when generation after generation continues to live in the town in which they were raised. This has created a society where families may be separated by thousands of miles and see each other only occasionally. As parents age and begin to show signs of needing assistance with the activities of daily living, this can create challenges for adult children who want to help ensure their loved ones continue to be safe and comfortable as they age. Should they be driving? Are they able to run a household and pay bills on time? Are they taking their medications correctly? Most adult children have the desire to take care of their aging parents, but aren’t able to do so from a distance. Here are some tips to help you become an effective long-distance caregiver.
Evaluate your parents’ ability to live safely
The first step to being an effective caregiver is to be well-informed. The holidays are coming up and this presents an outstanding opportunity to assess how well your loved ones are living. During your holiday visit, pay attention to their health condition, the condition of their home, their appearance and grooming. Is mail piled up on the table? Have bills been paid? Is the refrigerator well-stocked? If you have concerns, speak with your loved one’s healthcare provider, financial advisor and other professionals. Talk to friends and neighbors—and, most important, talk to your loved one. Ask lots of questions. Make notes to refer to later.
Create an action plan
Once you’ve assessed your loved one’s situation and needs, it’s time to determine what your role should be. If there is a situation that requires some attention, talk to other family members about the best steps to take. Enlist the advice of healthcare providers, eldercare attorneys or any others than can help provide assistance. Remember that unless your loved one is completely incapacitated, he or she must be centrally involved in developing the plan. You are trying to help Mom or Dad take control of their life, not control it for them. Your goal is to support your family member’s maximum level of independence, self-esteem and dignity.
If your loved one has a diagnosis such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, or other chronic illness, learn all you can about the condition. This will help you understand what they’re going through and possible action items you can do to help improve the situation.
Keep in touch
Of course, face-to-face visits are the best way to monitor a loved one’s health, but this isn’t always possible. Here are some way to keep in touch from a distance:
- Call often, and encourage your loved one to call you
- Set your loved one up with a simple email program
- Use a webcam or Skype for “virtual visits”
- Help your loved one create a Facebook page, or set up a family blog
- Remember that cards, letters and photos never go out of style
Enlist the help of a professional
When you don’t live nearby, hiring a professional caregiver makes sense and is a great way to help ensure your loved ones are being properly taken care of. Senior Planning Services offers flexible home care options and can help older adults with personal care, transportation to appointments, meal preparation and grocery shopping, housekeeping, and many other tasks. For long-distance caregivers who don’t know where to being, a care manager can assess your loved one’s situation, develop a customized Plan of Care, and serve as an advocate during medical, legal and financial appointments.
Long-distance caregiving can be a challenge, but becomes much easier when you enlist the support of those experienced in dealing with the issues of aging. If you’d like to learn more about the services we provide, please contact us.