I attended a seminar about long distance caregiving last week and this article about sums up all the things we discussed. I especially like the last point..don't expect your parents to welcome your assistance. The full article can be seen on CNN.com's website here. (Or you can go to their website and search for long distance caregiving and the article should come up on the right hand side called "Caring for Mom and Dad from afar."
I just read another article by one of my favorite people Cheryl Kuba. I asked her if I could post it here and of course she said yes, so here it is!Maybe home is where the heart is, but if you are not home and desperately worried about an ailing loved one who lives 2,000 miles away, your anguish can be a ticking time-bomb for your own health and future happiness.Eldercare expert and gerontologist Cheryl Kuba offers strategies that can be adopted as New Year’s resolutions to make long distance caregiving a stress-free success for you and your aging parent. “According to a study by Metropolitan Life (2005), more than 7 million adult children are caring for their parents long distance,” Kuba said. “While the internet and cell phones can put us in immediate contact with our loved ones, there is no substitute for the human touch or being able to see with our own eyes that our parents are safe, and well cared for.” Long distance caregivers live an average of 304 miles away from their care receivers, according to statistics from the National Coalition on Aging (NCOA).In her book Navigating the Journey of Aging Parents: What Care Receivers Want (Routlege 2006), Kuba outlines what the dependent elderly expect from their children who live far away, as well as the concerns that the adult children have about mom and dad not living just down the block. “As we venture into a new year our own new year’s resolutions should include a reasonable, updated game plan for long distance caregiving,” Kuba said.Resolutions to insure the well-being and comfort for a relative who lives miles away:Advance Directives. It’s a new year. Time to revisit the affairsthat are in order, or simply get your parent’s affairs in order.Specifically, make sure that the Living Will, Health Care Power ofAttorney, and organ donation card (if this is your loved one’s choice)are up to date. Too many families wind up in court at the same timethat their ailing family member is dying in a hospital, because nobodychecked the advance directives. In some cases, guardianship needs to beestablished long before a loved one’s dying days.MOST IMPORTANTLY: KNOW WHERE THESE DOCUMENTS ARE KEPT! Whether it is asafe deposit box, file cabinet, a lawyer’s office or a shoe box underthe bed, you should know and should also alert someone who lives closeto your parent how to locate these documents. Some elderly individualschoose to tape an envelope to the refrigerator with the living will anddurable power of attorney inside. If paramedics are called, they willhave the documents in hand in a matter of minutes.Consider Care Management. Eldercare managers or case managerscan be hired to do all kinds of tasks for your parents includingscheduling appointments, doing paperwork, hiring housekeeping and evenpet care services. Care managers are often considered as “the otherdaughter” and can serve as a terrific professional liaison between youand your parent. Contact the National Association of Geriatric CareManagers, www.caremanager.org.Local contacts as back up. It’s time to update that list oflocal contacts. One adult daughter that we worked with was franticbecause her mother’s health care power of attorney had been given to anelderly woman who was now hospitalized with Alzheimer’s disease. Combthrough your parent’s social network of neighbors, church folks, andfriends to see if there isn’t someone who can frequently visit and giveyou an update on how your parent is doing. A good source is theEldercare Locator, www.eldercare.gov. for help in your parent’s community.Family members. It’s hard to believe that just as your agingparent grows older, so do the grandchildren and nieces and nephews.Maybe one of you nieces or nephews is old enough now to do ‘grandmacheck-ins’ as a part time job. Perhaps the situation for your siblingsor Godchildren has changed, and they can help with the tasks of takingyour parent to appointments.In town assessments. During your next visit, do a thoroughassessment of your parents’ living situation. Is their environmentstill safe? Are there spills around the stove that could indicate pooreyesight, or lack of recognition about food spilling over?Do a physical ‘walk around’ with your parent, in their home. Beforeevery flight, the captain or first officer on each commercial flightdoes a physical ‘walk around’ to make sure that the plane is in shipshape. Are the lights and vents working, etc? Have the conversationwith your parent about falling, as the two of you walk through theirliving room, and into the bedroom. Phrase the question by saying, “Whenyou fall….” not, “If you fall…” One third of all falls with the elderlyoccur from hazards in the home. As you pass various locations in eachroom, the question should be, “When you fall over here by the window,how will you get help?” Whether or not you get the best answer to thisquestion, you have started the conversation, and started your parentthinking about the possibilities of a fall. This is also a great timeto talk about emergency alert devices.Telephones. Cell phones and cordless phones can be both ablessing and a hindrance for your parent. Cell phones need to alwaysbe charged; and, with a few exceptions, most buttons and displays oncell phones aren’t user friendly for someone with poor eyesight orarthritic hands. Cordless phones work, but are useless if the powergoes off. Always have a phone with a cord in the home.Time zones. We worked with an adult daughter named Jean, wholived in London, while her 85 year old mother lived in the UnitedStates. Even though Jean told her mother to call on her cell phone, theelderly mom rarely ever called because of the distance, the cost, andthe confusion over the time zones. Jean became so anxious about hermother refusing to call, that she moved back to the U.S. Now Jean’smother uses the same cell phone number and calls her daughterfrequently. The hurdle here was the obstacle in her mother’s mind aboutplacing a transatlantic call.Know that you are doing your best. No two families are alike,and no two situations are alike. What may have been an emergency crisisfor your Aunt Mabel in Omaha may be solved by getting your mom inChicago to take two aspirin.Take care of yourself, celebrate each moment, and 2008 will be a Happy New Year!_______________________________________For information about the right questions to ask as a long distancecaregiver, pick up a copy of Navigating the Journey of Aging Parents:What Care Receivers Want,by Cheryl A. Kuba, MA. - see the link to Amazon on the right side of this blog!!Cheryl's website: www.agingparentsolutions.com