It’s becoming increasingly common for families to spread out across the country, and even the world, for jobs, retirement, and adventure. While greater access to transportation and communications has made it possible for geographically distant relatives to keep in touch, aging can present special challenges. With proper preparation, however, you can coordinate excellent care from across the miles that will not only keep your parent healthy and safe, but help them feel loved and secure.
It’s never too early to gather important paperwork. Before making any plans for outside help–and in the case of an emergency–you will need access to medical, financial, legal, and governmental information. Ideally, you will be able to sit down with your parent in person to sort through these documents and organize them for future use.
The following checklist from Family Caregiver Alliance will not only tell you what you need, but help you know where to find it. https://www.caregiver.org/where-find-my-important-papers
You will want to prioritize getting legal documents squared away, such as a will, Advance Health Care Directive, and Durable Power of Attorney, before a health condition makes it impossible for your parent to do so.
Research Local Resources
If your parent is still capable of living independently but could use occasional support, tap into their local resources first. Next time you’re visiting your parent in person, make a point to connect with neighbors and exchange information so you can ask them to check in occasionally or report any concerns with you. Get in touch with a local church or senior center and help your parent sign up for activities and events to help them stay social and active. You may also want to interview some part-time home health aides in order to have a reliable professional on hand when needed.
Begin researching other local resources as well so when your parent needs more assistance down the line, you are prepared:
- Geriatric care managers
- Home care and companion services
- Elder care attorneys
- Personal emergency response devices and telephone hotlines
- Government and private agency services to provide meals and transportation
- Adult day care and senior centers
- Assisted living and long-term skilled nursing facilities
Know When to Choose Long-Term Care
When your parent starts to face serious challenges to their financial, physical, social, and emotional independence, it may be time to choose long-term care, such as an assisted living facility. While no two families or situations are alike, you can prepare for the decision-making process by knowing what signs to watch for and determining when the scales have tipped toward long-term care not only being the safest, but the most enjoyable, solution.
Is your parent struggling with any of the following physical challenges?
- Inability to prepare healthy meals
- Trouble managing medication
- Difficulty with showering, hygiene, and eating
- Lack of safe opportunities for physical fitness
How is your parent dealing with the responsibilities of living in their home?
- Navigating steps and stairways safely
- Taking care of yardwork and other seasonal chores
- Maintaining appliances
- Dealing with repair workers
- Wishing for the security of additional protections: safety grab bars, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and sprinkler systems
It may seem financially wiser to try to stay put in a current living situation rather than make a move to a new space. But there’s more cost to maintaining that independence than meets the eye:
- Renovations to accommodate changing health needs in the home can be extremely costly and lower resale property value.
- Keeping track of bills and living expenses can become overwhelming or confusing, causing missed payments or neglected purchases of necessities.
- Utility expenses may rise as a result of keeping the heat or air conditioning at uncomfortable temperatures.
- Family heirlooms could bring more stress than pleasure, worrying about entrusting treasured objects to family members.
Healthy social interactions make for a longer, richer life. Is your parent struggling with any of the following?
- Limiting activities because of difficult weather or lack of transportation
- Feeling lonely and isolated at home, with only a television or radio for “company”
- Lacking a social network of peers with which to share common life experiences