Long Distance Care Giving

Long Distance Caregiving

A Growing Challenge

Long Distance Caregiving can be stressful and extremely difficult for adult children taking care of a loved one. You are at a loss in what to do when certain issues come up, such as medication management. Many long distance caregivers are unable to visit often and many are part of the “sandwich generation”. Arranging services can be challenging. One of the difficulties are that you are not familiar with local services and resources available for your loved one.   Not being able to see what is going on in the home, such as are they eating OK, are they falling, etc. is another difficulty.   Some adult children believe the only answer is moving your loved one closer to you, but they do not want to move from their friends and lifelong home. If you are in a dilemma such as this, a Geriatric Care Manager can be of a great service, saving you time, money, and stress.

Some extra services include:

  • Managing health care, such as doctor appointments and transportation
  • Take notes at the doctor’s office
  • Understanding if they would benefit from home health and organize
  • Order medications and pickup and help with medication management (Medication is the 2nd reason for hospitalization)
  • Making grocery lists and preparing healthy meals
  • Assessing home for fall hazards
  • Taking them to the senior center so they can socialize
  • Provide a way to church
  • Involve non-profit resources that can assist in paying bills
  • Lining up services for house repairs if needed, such as plumbing
  • If taken to the ER, meet them and give the hospital staff important information
  • See if they qualify for any local resources
  • Communicate updated information and staying in contact with you

A plan would be established for your loved one's needs. A Geriatric Care Manager will keep you in the decison making, if that is your request. If you believe we could assist and help give your loved one the best quality of life and ease your worry, please contact us. Keep in mind that two resources that help in many cases are long term insurance policies and Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefits.

Some helpful hints during your next visit:

  • Observe hygiene
  • Eating
  • Condition of the home
  • Safety issues
  • Review financial records
  • Allow yourself enough time to accomplish tasks during your visits
  • Establish a local support system and have a backup plan (neighbors or friends)
  • Recognize that your perceptions may be different from that of your family member

Dear Amy: I am an only child. My family and I live about five hours from my parents, who are retired. My husband and I have two children, one in college and one in high school. I am a teacher and my husband has worked in the management field for a company for more than 20 years. My dilemma is that my mother has Alzheimer's, and I am really feeling the strain of the distance between us. I want to be there to support her, and to help my dad with caregiver responsibilities. There is no other family around to help them out, and it is very important to me to be there for them. Do you have any advice on how I can bridge the gap? Worried

Worried: You should make sure your parents have the best possible care. This is something you can help to set up and monitor (to some extyent) from a distance. You will feel better when you are confident that they have a local safety net. The Alzheimer's Association has a very helpful "comjmunity resource finder" on its website, Alz.org. I tested this using several zip codes and searching for different categories, such as "adult day-care programs." Doing a search like this would help inform you about what servics are available to your parents locally. The local Office on Aging will also help.

You can hire a local geriatric-care manager to coordinate some of these services and communicate with you. You should plan a trip home and stay for at least a week, in order to try to get an idea of what their challenges are over the course of several days and to check out local programs and caregivers. Work witih your father to set up some respite care and household help--even if he says he doesn't need it. Because you are a teacher, I'm assuming you might have some time during the summer when you aren't working. You should ask your husband to pick up the slack at home in order for you to spend more time with your folks (perhaps he could drive to visit you on the weekends). Ultimately, moving them near you--or you moving to them--might be necessary.

Amy's column appears seven days a week at washingtonpost.com/advice.

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