Caregivers face almost daily challenges when it comes to caring for aging parents. These challenges range from not having enough time or energy to care for them in addition to caring for a growing family and career responsibilities. When you add long-distance into the mix and it becomes even more difficult for a child to care for his or her aging parents.
What can you do? There are many steps you can take to be a quality caregiver even if you’re doing so from a long distance.
How do you know when it’s time to consider that mom and dad might need additional help? This is especially challenging if you don’t live close by and aren’t able to drop in on them and check on their health or well-being. You can keep in touch though, through the telephone and even via computer. Here are some situations you may want to be aware of when talking to, or visiting, your aging loved ones:
- Is the home and general housekeeping falling into disrepair? Ask if perhaps they simply don’t feel agile enough to keep up with it or if they’re simply neglecting the housekeeping.
- Does it seem as though your parent is becoming forgetful and may injure himself?
- Are you noticing short term memory issues?
- Do you worry about your parents taking care of their bills and other household obligations?
- Have they suffered an injury or illness or trip and fall accident recently?
What do you do if you notice or even sense (trust your intuition when talking with your aging relatives) something isn’t right? First of all, chances are you will feel guilty. You will have feelings of grief because your parents’ health is failing and you may even be resentful of the situation that you don’t live close enough to help out on a daily basis. Fear of the unknown and anger at the situation in general will also plague most caregivers and these are normal and while they shouldn’t be ignored, can be dealt with.
If you’re a long distance caregiver, what can you do? Here are a few steps:
- Talk to the family physician so that you are fully aware of the health issues that may be impacting your parents
- Talk to a friend, neighbor or a family member who lives in closer proximity and ask if they will check up on them on a regular basis and check in with you
- Look into local services for the aging that are available in most communities. These services can provide transportation to and from doctor’s visits and grocery stores. There are also services that will deliver low cost meals to your parents on a daily basis (typically a hot lunch and a sandwich for dinner)
- If necessary, hire a professional caregiver who will come in to administer medications, help with physical activities and personal grooming and even light housekeeping and meal preparation
- Invest in a home medical alert device so that if your parent suffers a trip and fall or any other kind of illness they have access to medical assistance at the push of a button. These personal medical devices can be a literal lifesaver, especially if there is no one who will be checking in on them regularly.
- Consider a move to an assisted living environment if you, and they, agree that aging in place is no longer an option.
- Purchase and teach them how to use a simple computer with a video camera set up so you can have a daily visual check-in to assure yourself that they are safe and to offer them a sense of family and community rather than being isolated.
There will likely come a time when you will need to deal with aging parents, whether close or long distance, and being prepared both mentally and emotionally will make the transitions easier. It may be time to pay them a visit and see about getting legal paperwork in order and to have a face-to-face about their wishes as they age.