Caring for your aging parents can be challenging. Caring for your aging parents from a distance can be downright overwhelming. If you live more than an hour away from the person you are caring for, then you are one of more than 5 million Americans who provides long-distance caregiving for an older parent.
From coordinating in-home care and managing medical bills to providing emotional support and arranging transportation services, making sure your loved one’s needs are met from afar requires regular assessments of their care requirements, developing a care plan, locating community resources, keeping important documents in order and ongoing care monitoring. If you are considering taking on the role of caregiving from a distance, here are some helpful tips.
Schedule a Meeting of the Minds
When caring from afar, communication is key. Before you make any decisions, gather family, friends and anyone else who will be involved in your loved one’s care. Ask about your parent’s wants and desires, and reassure them that their goals and preferences will be respected. Discuss which activities of daily living your parent might need assistance with, and identify how those needs will be met. If necessary, ask your parent who they might be comfortable coming to check in on them when you’re away or seek professional help from a paid in-home caregiver. Create a contact list — one for your loved one and one for yourself — of who can help with shopping, transportation or an emergency.
Find and Implement Resources
Once you have a good idea of your parent’s care needs, research resources and local senior services that could help them. From adult day services to home health aides to friendly visitors, there are community resources that can make long-distance caregiving a little bit easier. Consider using video communication to connect with your parent so you can assess their health, remind them about their meds and give them some face time with the grandkids. Another helpful resource is web-based activity monitoring, which allows you to key an eye on your parent without being intrusive.
Organize Important Documents
In the event of an emergency, it’s important that both you and your parent have access to medical, insurance, utilities, financial and legal information. Compile their medical records and a list of medications they take, make notes on their condition, and provide contact information for their doctors and pharmacy. Make copies of any legal documents, including a will, advance directive, power of attorney, birth certificate and Social Security number. Although it might be difficult, ask about their financial situation, and organize financial records, including assets, debts, income, expenses, and account information.
Remember, caregivers — even ones located in the same city as the person they provide care for — can’t do everything on their own. For more information and practical considerations as you provide assistance and support for your loved ones who live at a distance, check out this Since You Care guide.