Caring for an aging parent or loved one can be challenging, but it’s even more difficult when you live in another city or state. According to the National Institute on Aging, if you live more than an hour away from a person who needs your care, you’re a long-distance caregiver. Like local caregivers, long-distance caregivers provide help with things like finances or money management, coordinating health care and doctor’s appointments, and arranging for in-home care or locating senior living facilities. However, being separated by distance often makes these tasks far more complicated for caregivers.
So, how can you successfully meet your parent’s care needs from miles away? Here are a few tips for getting started with long-distance caregiving.
Have important discussions early on
It’s not always easy to talk with our parents about aging and their plans for the future. However, having important conversations about your parent’s needs, plans, and wishes is the best way to ensure your family is well-prepared for the future. Schedule a family meeting to discuss decisions about healthcare, senior living, and financial responsibilities well in advance. Having such conversations early and often will avoid any confusion down the road.
Assess your parent’s needs
As your parents grow older, it’s likely they’ll experience some changes in their health and lifestyle. Whether it’s due to mobility problems, diminished cognitive skills, or mental and emotional health concerns, there inevitably comes a time when living at home is no longer safe or comfortable for many older adults. However, assessing your parent’s needs can be difficult, especially if you’re don’t live in the same town or state.
When you visit your loved one’s home, take some time to look for warning signs that they may need more help, including poor housekeeping, changes in eating habits, mobility issues, or lapses in memory. Stay in contact with your loved one’s friends and neighbors, and ask them if they notice any signs of problems. Most older adults feel embarrassed about asking for help and try to hide or deny the fact that they need more support. If anything catches your attention on your next visit, be sure to ask your parent about it.
Get educated about the types of senior care available
Before you can start seriously looking at senior living options for your parent, you’ll need to become educated about the many types of care facilities available for older adults, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing care. Because each type of senior living offers different levels of care and support services for aging adults, doing your research will help you evaluate the best option for your parent.
Prepare for changing care needs
One of the biggest obstacles long-distance caregivers face is preparing for their loved one’s changing care needs. Developing a plan that addresses your loved one’s needs both now and in the future reduces the fear of the unknown and eliminates any last minute decision making.
For this reason, many caregivers see the value of relocating their loved one to a continuing-care retirement community, or CCRC. CCRCs are an innovative senior living option that offers a “continuum of care.” In a CCRC, all care levels are provided on the same campus, enabling older adults to stay in the comfort and familiarity of their community as their needs change over time. Choosing a CCRC gives long-distance caregivers added peace of mind knowing that their loved one will receive necessary care and support, no matter what the future holds.