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How do I know Mom's okay? Warning Signs for Long-Distance Elder Caregivers - Aging Wisely

telephone call to older adult

Aging Wisely receives many calls from family members all across the United States who have concerns about an elderly relative(s) living in Clearwater/Tampa Bay. Sometimes there has been a crisis such as a fall or hospitalization, or the loved one is trying to find out what eldercare resources and aging services exist in Florida. Many times the son or daughter is just concerned about Mom or Dad, perhaps after a recent visit in which things seem to have changed.

We have previously shared some resources to help caregivers with this topic:

Warning Signs for Family Members (Am I in Denial about Potential Problems?) & Resources to Help

10 Warning Signs of Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease

Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers: What to do on a visit with your aging loved one

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults

With the holidays (and wintery weather up north), this is a time of year when many long-distance family members visit their loved ones in Florida so we felt it was important to revisit this topic and offer some advice and tips. If you notice any of the signs in the articles above or see major changes in your loved one, it may be time to consider setting up an eldercare consultation, getting a geriatric care management assessment and/or bringing in some in-home senior care to ensure safety and wellbeing.

Here are some pointers about how you can prepare to handle concerns as a long-distance caregiver:

• Ask your parent, for planning purposes, if they are willing to introduce you to key professionals who you may have to interact with in case of an emergency or change. Find out for example, if your parent is willing, what various doctors’ offices need so that you are permitted to receive information (a healthcare surrogate document is important for you to act on someone’s behalf, but you may also need to assist your parent while he or she is still competent and typically the doctor’s office has a privacy form on which the patient can permit access). Get contact information for professionals such as your parent’s financial advisor and CPA and get introduced or attend an appointment if feasible.

• Has your parent executed advanced planning documents to allow someone to step in to make decisions when needed?

• Is your parent close with neighbors? Make sure they have your contact information in case of an emergency. Be conscious of not relying unrealistically on neighbors, however.

• Does your parent have a File or Vial of Life? This is information posted for emergency personnel, which includes emergency contact persons, medications, and conditions/diagnoses. Your local fire department and the Red Cross can usually provide the File or Vial of Life (The Vial is a medication-like vial that goes inside the refrigerator with the information inside, and a red dot to alert medical personnel that it is there, whereas the File of Life is a magnetic pouch which is placed on the refrigerator door). You may also contact Aging Wisely and we can provide you a complimentary File of Life.

• Consider installing a personal emergency response system (system to call for help).

• What type of plan do you have in place for checking in? Consider setting up a schedule of visits with various family members as well as checking in via telephone. A home health caregiver coming in weekly can also help ensure someone is there regularly and can help your parent with tasks he or she finds difficult.

Noticed some concerns on your recent visit or call with your elderly parent? Want to talk to someone about how to address your concerns with your loved one? Think it may be time to get a geriatric assessment to really get a pulse on how your aging parent is managing?

Contact Aging Wisely for answers, advice and peace of mind.

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