The difficult truth about life is that it doesn’t last forever. This is a reality that people taking care of their parents know very intimately, as the dynamics of the relationship change and they take on the responsibility of caring for an elderly parent. If your loved one’s physical or mental conditions are changing, you might be faced with some tough decisions regarding care, living situation, and medical needs. What happens if you live away from your parent? You have to find a way to remain close and in touch, even at a distance.
Long-distance caregivers are not as rare as you may think. According to Aging Care, about seven million adults are long-distance caregivers. This means you are in charge of various aspects of your loved one’s life including taking care of medications, finances, and doctor appointments.
Where to Start
This new responsibility can be overwhelming. Communicate with your parent and learn his or her situation, mobility limitations, and surroundings. Get in contact with neighbors, doctors, and people in the community. This will give you several contact points with which to help you survey your parent’s overall well-being.
If you don’t already have a caregiver, getting your parent a full-time or part-time primary caregiver can ensure that you always have a person to report back to you.
Make Use of Today’s Tools
Technology has changed the way we live and communicate. If they don’t already, encourage parents to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer. This can not only serve them as entertainment, but as a practical tool for reading and keeping in touch.
Take advantage of the tools that technology has put in front of you. With the changes in phone service, long-distance calls are no longer a problem. Take advantage of this by calling regularly and maintaining contact.
There are also other ways to keep in touch like Skype or FaceTime which allow for video conferencing. These tech apps are known to help seniors fight off loneliness and depression. Video calls allows intimate communication between you and your parent, primary caregiver, doctors, and physical therapists.
There are a variety of software and applications, as outlined by Life Hack, that can be useful:
Fall Detector: This app notifies you when a person has fallen
Pillboxie: A great reminder app to keep track of necessary medications
iBP Blood Pressure: Track and analyze blood pressure
Motion Doctor: This app can help with some home physical therapy
Help Them Relocate
Part of the shifting dynamic of a deteriorating condition includes helping your loved ones relocate to a facility or home that is better suited for their needs. As Time magazine points out, this is a difficult but necessary subject. Your parent may want to consider an independent living community, assisted living, or a nursing home, all of which range from an independent life to a situation that requires around-the-clock attention.
Preparing seniors for a move is a delicate endeavor, especially if it involves leaving a house of many years and getting rid of belongings. Your parent may have been at his or her current house for decades, and the accumulation of memories, items, and furniture presents a very difficult task. There is a lot of anxiety with seniors as they fear they are losing control. This is both emotionally daunting and physically demanding, requiring time and patience.
When sorting through belongings, a few things to keep in mind according to American Grandparents Association include:
Be sensitive to the emotional aspects
Acknowledge and understand that it is a process and requires time
Begin in a room with the least sentimental attachment
Consider hiring a professional
Being responsible for seniors is no task for the faint of heart. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and that this a common scenario for many across the country. Use the tools technology provides to help shorten the distance. Don’t be too hard on yourself, give yourself room to breathe, and understand that there is only so much you can control.
Written by Marie Villeza - Marie Villeza's mission is to empower seniors against ageism by providing information they need to keep control of their own lives. She developed ElderImpact.org to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.
• Seven million - https://www.agingcare.com/articles/an-overview-of-long-distance-caregiving-132478.htm
• Known - http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/how-skype-and-email-could-help-seniors-avoid-loneliness-and-an-early-death-1.2881312
• Software - http://www.lifehack.org/278271/the-best-apps-and-tools-for-older-people
• Relocate - https://www.redfin.com/blog/seniors-guide-to-downsizing
• Time - http://time.com/money/4575291/talk-to-parents-leaving-house/
• Include - https://www.grandparents.com/family-and-relationships/caregiving/how-to-downsize