In our increasingly mobile society, chances are you don’t live next door, or even within quick driving distance, of your aging parents. If you find yourself in this situation and find that your parents are in need of more care than you can give from your long distance vantage point, there are ways to address this. You can help them age in place, keep them safe and keep your sanity and guilt at bay.
If your parents are content to age in place, have a talk with them about the idea of investing in a medical alert device. These personal medical devices are ideal whether they are aged and have suffered a trip or fall accident or whether they have some underlying medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Having a medical alert system provides peace of mind knowing that should they fall or suffer a medical emergency that assistance is readily available at the push of the medical alert button. Having a talk with them about this may be a delicate subject, but it is one that can provide the entire family peace of mind.
Here are three other tips for long distance caregiving:
- Prepare an emergency contact list. Put together names, addresses and telephone numbers of physicians, family members, church leaders and other professionals that your family can interact with. A copy should be kept with your aging parents, family members and those who provide care.
- Keep a list of all personal and financial information. Knowing where your parents keep their health insurance information and life insurance paperwork as well as lists of all medications and legal paperwork will relieve a lot of stress in the event of an emergency. You should also know where the bank account information is and whether your parents have a will, a healthcare proxy or a power of attorney. This paperwork should be prepared well in advance of a need arising.
- When you visit, make certain it is a productive time. Whether it’s a twice a year visit for a spring cleaning and a winter preparation visit, you need to have a plan in place and make the most of the visit. You don’t want the entire visit to be all about work, though; plan for fun times and conversation. Use your visits to connect, take family photos and even to talk with them about their wishes when it comes time they can no longer age in place, these are not easy conversations, but are much easier face-to-face than via telephone.
If your parents are tech savvy, offer to purchase an easy to operate computer where they can go online and look at photos you have posted of the family and to have weekly Skype calls as a way to keep in touch.
Long distance caregiving is more challenging than if you live close by, but with planning and preparation it can be done.
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