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Elder Care Story: Managing Long-Distance Care with Support

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client elder care plan

Today we share an elder care story from a long-time Aging Wisely client, in the words of her cousin who helps manage her elder care from a distance. Mary became a client back in the early 2000s, when our team was engaged to help with some planning decisions.

Joe Skalski, elder care from a distance

We’ll let Mary’s cousin, Joe Skalski, describe in his words why our elder care team was engaged and how we have helped:

I used Aging Wisely to help Mary back in the early 2000s to assist with some life decisions. Mary’s parents provided for her care well into their 80s, but then her father died followed by her Mom’s entry into an assisted living facility that specializes in care for Alzheimer’s patients. Mary had been so dependent on her Mom and Dad after the death of her husband decades ago.

As Mary’s parents aged, there was quite a gap in her care. Some family members have pitched in here and there to help out a great deal, but of course we all have our own lives to run as well, our own work that requires time and dedication, and our own immediate family members for whom we must also dedicate time and effort. Aging Wisely took care of getting Mary emotionally healthy to continue independent living and making sure some of her important needs were being addressed despite her disability and inability to meet certain needs on her own. 

Joe contacted Aging Wisely again in 2013 to provide supportive services to ensure Mary could continue living independently, while staying safe and healthy. She has a local family caregiver who takes her to medical appointments and EasyLiving caregivers, arranged by her elder care manager, who visit twice/week for some household and personal care tasks, socialization and transportation. When Joe contacted Aging Wisely this time for services, he was particularly concerned about her transportation needs, ensuring she got her medications and was taking them properly and the need to develop a system for her spending money needs beyond what her food stamps covered.

Whether it came to getting her a podiatrist who does home visits, making sure her laundry is done or having someone assist her with grocery shopping, I can rest assured that my cousin is being taken care of despite the 500 miles that separate us.

As our elder care team works with clients in many different situations, our goal is always to increase the client’s (and family’s ) quality of life. This means different solutions for different people, but also a focus in the way we interact with clients and the expectations we set (and advocacy to ensure ongoing quality) for those who are engaged to assist them (be it their household help, elder care staff, medical providers or assisted living staff). This focus means we often hear the kind of feedback Joe mentions below.

Mary consistently gives me great feedback on her interactions with Aging Wisely staff and the personal care helpers they have coordinated for her.

The end result is a more positive experience of life in general, the ability to live the fullest life possible despite health issues or other limitations. We’re pleased to hear Joe’s description of how this has worked for Mary:

She has gone from a state of constant fear for the future to one where she looks forward with a degree of confidence she never had before. 

For the concerned family member like Joe, the result is peace of mind. Our elder care team prides themselves on communication, and each client care plan lays out how and when we should communicate with involved family members or other caregivers as well as expectations for visiting and emergency response, goals and plan.

As Joe shares, Their regularity of reporting to me has been quite a comfort.

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Long-Distance Caregiver Advice: Holidays with Aging Parents

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long distance caregivers celebrating Christmas with aging parents

Long-Distance Caregivers: Three Ways to Ruin the Holidays with Your Aging Parents

And, what to do instead…

1. Try to get as much done as possible in the short time you have. Schedule the year’s appointments and ensure that everything gets done. Why is this so bad? It often may feel necessary, especially if no one in the family lives nearby. There may be many tasks to handle, but this is the fastest way to alienate and overwhelm your aging parents. A lot of what you do on your visit may end up undone if you have “rushing in syndrome”. This leaves little time for meaningful conversations around any of the concerns you might have and too little precious time to enjoy the holidays. You may be used to rushing around and getting things accomplished, but you can exhaust an elderly loved one who is not very active.

So, what can you do instead? Either plan a longer visit or other visits, if at all possible. Try to handle some issues via phone before/after your visit if a longer visit is not feasible. Can you break up duties between family members or even hire someone to help with certain things? We often hear, “you allowed me to be a daughter again” from our Aging Wisely clients. Family time is precious and sometimes having someone else to handle tasks and care coordination can permit the family to enjoy what might be limited time together again. Consider setting aside holiday time primarily for that, while using other time for tasks and concerns.

2. Sit your aging parents down for a serious conversation to tell them that they should move to assisted living (or sell their home to come live with you, etc.).

We always encourage conversations and openness about important issues in the family, so why do we go against that here? Well, the holidays frankly just aren’t the time to do it if you can avoid it. This is especially true if this is the first time you are broaching these issues. Either plan to stick around longer and have these conversations after you’ve spent some time together or save it for another time. Even better, approach these topics early and often. If you’re having difficulty, call our Senior Care Consultant and we can help you with ideas or set you up with a care manager who can help with a caring, dignified approach. Unless things have become dangerous for your aging parents, it makes sense to approach concerns gradually and start from the elder’s perspective. There might be issues that they are worried about too, and they may be willing to start with getting help in the home or making small steps.

3. Tell your local sister/brother all the problems you see and your helpful ideas about what needs to change. When you come in to town as the long-distance caregiver, telling the local family member all the bad things you see implies they’ve been doing everything wrong and devalues their day-to-day struggles. When you aren’t there every day, you probably don’t have a good understanding of everything that goes on so you may jump to unfair conclusions. This can cause a lot of resentment, even in the best relationships.

Take time to observe and think about things before speaking out. If you see concerns or have ideas, make some notes and plan a time to talk about it later. Ask your local sibling some questions and express concern about how he/she is doing and how you can help. Don’t forget that your aging parents may “pull themselves together” to rally for your visit, or if you have not been there in a while things may seem drastically changed for the worse. You have a different view than the person who is there daily.

Want to have a better holiday together this year? Let us help! We offer abundant resources to assist you as a long-distance caregiver of aging parents. Our care management team can help you coordinate long-distance care and maintain strong family relationships. Our EasyLiving team can help take care of tasks and day-to-day needs, giving you peace of mind.

Give yourself the gift of peace of mind and your family the gift of aging well and wisely! Call us at 727-447-5845 to discuss your options.

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Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.