How to Help Care for Aging Parents from A Distance
First and foremost, it is important to note you cannot be everywhere. There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week and no matter hard we try we cannot change that fact. You can provide help for your parents even if you live far away though. Here are some strategies that can help:
Have a Family Meeting
Gather family around. Discuss what your parents’ wishes are for their healthcare and wellbeing. Do they want to live in their own home if possible? Are they OK with outside help? Would they prefer the social interaction of a senior living facility? Would they like the stress-free maintenance and environment of a senior living facility? Next, assess the current situation. Are your parents’ healthcare wishes being met? Are there any pressing healthcare issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later? Discuss each person’s strengths. One person might be better suited to pay bills and manage finances. One person might be better suited to secure and manage outside resources. One person might be better suited to provide emotional support. Remember, it is OK to not be able to do everything for your parents.
Finally, devise a plan. Make sure someone has permission to receive medical and financial information. Address as many issues and scenarios as possible. Having a discussion and a tentative plan, even if it does not cover everything, is important before you encounter a crisis that requires immediate help.
Using technology is a great way to stay connected over the miles. You might have to work around time zones and user challenges, but if Covid has taught us anything, it is that almost anything is possible to do virtually. Video chats are a great resource. Most doctor’s offices are happy to let you join an appointment via Facetime or Zoom. Scheduling regular video chats will give your parents something to look forward to and will allow you to stay on top of how they are doing both cognitively and physically.
If your parents struggle with technology, there are several smart devices designed to address the needs of seniors. Pre-load any new device with all the apps you are planning to use and set up the accounts. The AARP website offers a number of guides to using communication apps on different devices.
Having access to your parents’ health portals can be a good way to stay up to date on their medical status. Here at Haven, all of our clients and families have access to our HIPAA secure communication hub where they can access: current medication lists, care management notes, provider contact lists, appointment calendars and family updates.
Plan Regular Visits
It is important to see your parents in person. This will allow you to gauge how they are progressing and if they have any unattended needs. Spend time helping where you can. If needed, relieve the primary caretaker. More importantly make sure to spend quality time with your loved one. Separate yourself from caretaker duties and spend time together as family doing a hobby, eating together or just talking. You will likely look back and treasure this time.
Hire Professional Help
Whether your parents choose to live at home or in a senior living facility, there are numerous options for professional help that can make either living arrangement a success when you cannot be close.
There are companies that provide help around the house for seniors in areas such as personal care: bathing, eating, grooming; household care: cooking, cleaning, laundry; and emotional care: companionship, meaningful activities, and conversation.
There are home health agencies that can help with medical issues such as: wound care, patient and caregiver education, intravenous or nutrition therapy, injections and monitoring serious illness and unstable health status.
There are healthcare advocates and geriatric care managers that can coordinate care and assure your parents’ needs are met.
At Haven Healthcare Advocates we offer monthly packages that include care coordination among all providers, in-person or remote check-ins, accompaniment to key doctor appointments, provider and treatment research, crisis care management, medication review/management and much more.
It has been said, to care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors. You can do that even if you do not live close. Make a plan, use resources wisely and take time to be together as family.