This week’s Care To Ask comes from a daughter who is caring for her parents who live in another state. Caregiving is stressful and living far away can make it difficult to provide the care older adults need.
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I live in Massachusetts but my parents, who are in their mid 80’s, live in North Carolina. I am only able to visit 2-3 times a year but I do speak with them at least 1 time a week. Although they keep telling me everything is OK, I am beginning to notice an increasing frailty in their voices. There are no family members in their area to help them out. Recently one of their neighbor’s called and expressed concern that they may be having difficulty caring for the house and themselves, including proper nutrition. I do not know where to start looking for help for them or even what might be available. I am also afraid that they will not let anyone in the house to help them.
A. Being the primary caregiver for parents or other loved ones is a stressful time. This stress is increased when one is trying to provide caregiving from a distance. All of the United States, including territories and Native American reservations are covered by an Area Agency on Aging. One of the functions of these agencies is to provide information about and referral to programs and services in their service area.
You can find the Area Agency on Aging in their community by contacting the ElderCare Locator at www.eldercare.gov. You can contact them by phone or live online chat or by the search feature. The phone line and online chat are available Monday-Friday between 9:00 am-8:00 pm the website search feature is available 24/7.
Once you have an understanding of what services are available, it is best to have a conversation with your parents before starting any service. It is important that they understand that any service you contact is committed to helping older adults remain in their own home as long as possible. It is often helpful to the older adult if a trusted family member or friend is present during the initial assessment for services.
You should also plan a visit to go see your parents as soon as you can. On your visit make a point to meet all of your parent’s friends and neighbors; share contact information with these people. You can ask these friends and neighbors to check in on your parents when you are not in town. When visiting your parents it will be important to assess their current level of need. This would mean taking notice of how they are doing with grocery shopping and preparing meals, their driving ability, safety in the home, medication management and their emotional and physical health conditions. It will be important to reassess these needs each time you visit.
It will be important to talk with your parents about the aspects of their care. Make sure you are aware of all important legal and financial documents they have and where they are located. It may be helpful to make copies of these documents. Also have contact information for your parent’s physicians and care providers.
Being a long distance caregiver can be exhausting. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself during this time as well. You can also use the ElderCare Locator to find caregiver support services, such as support groups or counseling, in your area.
Have any of the readers deal with long distance caregiving before? What worked for you? What did not?
photo credit: Rosie O'Beirne via photopin cc