Many of the families we help at Aging Wisely are caring for elderly parents long distance. This adds a unique dimension to caregiving that can be particularly anxiety-provoking. Our website contains a number of articles about important caregiving issues and tips for long-distance caregivers. We offer many checklists and resources that can help caregivers in all types of situations, as well as one-on-one help from our care management team. Today we’ll focus on some of the most important keys for managing aging parents’ care from a distance.
As this U.S. News and World Report article reports, the approximately 14 million long-distance caregivers in the U.S. tend to feel greater anxiety, guilt and uncertainty. They often feel they don’t really know what is going on and may mistrust information given from local family or other sources. Long-distance caregivers face difficult choices in trying to decide when to visit, how to be involved and approach different concerns and how to deal with emergencies. Long-distance caregiving can often become quite costly, with last minute travel to help the caree and costs of support services.
How you will experience caring for elderly parents long distance depends a lot on your situation. Do you have other family members that are local? What type of support system do your aging parents have in the community? What resources do your aging parents have (or can access) to help? What is your lifestyle and career situation (i.e. how much time can you dedicate to caregiving tasks and how easy will it be for you to visit or get there in an emergency)?
Regardless of these specifics, though, there are certain keys to managing long distance caregiving which can help you be more prepared and reduce your anxiety. Take these key steps:
- Rally the troops/marshal your resources. Get to know your parents’ local support system and make some key contacts. Do a little homework on local resources and talk to some potential care providers, so you know where to turn as things change.
- Think safety first. Have a home safety assessment completed and get suggestions for making the environment more age-friendly. Falls are a major source of those emergency phone calls that long-distance caregivers receive. Preventative steps can reduce risk of falls and related injuries.*
- Open the lines of communication. This starts first between you and your aging parents, with opening the discussion about aging and eldercare issues and continuing to check in as things change. Do you have difficulty getting your aging parents to share information with you? Now’s the time to discuss it or bring in help from a geriatric care manager who can get the conversation started. If you have local loved ones, discuss how/when you are going to communicate. Think about tools that will make it easier, such as online care portals. As your parents allow, make contacts with key professionals such as doctors and advisors so they know you and can ascertain permission from your parents to share information with you.
- Create a “checking in” plan. Create a plan for calling and visiting regularly. Work together with other family members and local resources. Consider whether you need support like a home caregiver or geriatric care manager. A geriatric care manager can attend medical appointments and do periodic assessment visits, keeping you informed and keeping things on track. Then, you also have a resource to call upon to deal with crises. A home caregiver can not only be local “eyes and ears” for you but ensure better safety, good nutrition, and proper medication management, for example.
If you are caring for aging parents in Florida long distance, let us help you. Give us a call today to discuss options and ways to be more prepared. Our Senior Care Consultant will do a free needs analysis, in person or via phone, for you and your family. Give us a call at 727-447-5845!