Concern about mom or dad’s health and well-being is top of mind for many baby boomers today. Worrisome signs of your parent’s frailty, progressive memory loss or the decline in health require more and more of your help and attention. But what if you live a good distance away? Whether you live an hour away, in a different state, or maybe even in another country, caregiving at a distance presents very real challenges.
Luckily a recent PBS article, titled "How to care for your aging parents from a distance," assures us that there is no one right way to be a caregiver, as everyone’s situation is different. Caregiving responsibilities can entail at least information gathering and the coordinator of services.
One step is to ask your parent(s) to provide you with information to locate their important records, phone numbers, email addresses and other essential contact information. This includes legal documents like a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters. These should be created before a health condition makes it impossible.
The original article suggests that to keep things in order, long-distance caregivers will benefit from keeping a Care Notebook. This is a central place to maintain all critical information and can be digital or just a regular old three-ring binder with pocket dividers. Do not forget current info on your parent’s prescriptions. Also, if you hire professional caregivers for your loved one, keep a separate notebook to document medication administration and other basic physical and mental health status information. Instructions to paid caregivers should be in writing.
PBS provides a few other important suggestions, such as:
Communicate. Whenever possible, include your loved one in the decision making process—especially choices on care and housing. Consider his or her expressed preferences and respect their values, even if they are not yours.
Education. Read up on the available care and services. Every region and location is unique in the types of services that are available, but some are found throughout the U.S.
Take Care of Yourself. Caregiving can be stressful, and you should have a support network for yourself. Hire help and get other family members involved. Attempting to do it all yourself is not healthy or safe for you or your loved one.
Changing Needs. Remember that your loved one's care needs may change over time, and original article stressed that it is never too early to consider possible future needs. There are many options to be considered; making informed, well-thought-out decisions about your parent’s care are vital, and your elder law attorney can help.
The realization of your new role as a caregiver can be stressful. The good news is that you can contact a qualified elder law attorney to get more information and the answers you need.
Reference: PBS (October 9, 2014) "How to care for your aging parents from a distance"