Long distance caregiving, regardless of the circumstances, is challenging. The worry over home safety for seniors, ensuring loved ones are cared for, arranging legal affairs, and the time required to accomplish all of this can take a toll on caregivers.
The good news is that living far away from elderly parents doesn’t prevent them from receiving the care they need, nor does it mean you can’t have the peace of mind you desire.
How to Help Elderly Parents from a Distance
Many of the challenges surrounding long distance family care involve coordination of services. The following long distance caregiving tips will help you establish the structure and support needed as you begin caring for aging parents from a distance.
Start the Conversation
Before you decide how to take care of aging parents long-distance, discuss the possibility of a caregiving plan with them. Caring for aging parents from afar requires you to have all the necessary information as well as legal authority to make decisions on their behalf. This is often much easier if the initial decisions are mutual.
Establish Required Access
Have your loved one sign the appropriate paperwork or make the necessary calls giving doctors, insurance companies, lawyers, and financial institutions permission to discuss their circumstances with you.
Assign a Durable Power of Attorney
This is someone who will make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions in the event your loved one is unavailable or unable to do so themselves.
Cover Emergency Basics
Dealing with emergencies can be one of the most challenging aspects of caring for elderly parents from afar. It can help to plan ahead, which includes answering questions such as: Who is allowed access to the home in an urgent situation? Has the landlord been made aware of this? Where is a spare set of keys kept? What is the code to the alarm system? Where are medications stored? The more you know in advance, the better.
Create a Care Team
As a long-distance caregiver, you can’t go this alone. There must be others who agree to and understand their role in supporting your care plan.
- Establish needs and determine what each person on your team is responsible for. “Needs” cover everything from medical care, to transportation, to lawn care, to companionship. Your team might include pharmacists, neighbors, lawyers, landlords, financial advisors, a home care agency, or anyone else your loved one will have regular contact with.
- Meet with the team in person. This will go a long way to ensure each member of your team is familiar with the others, which will facilitate smoother communication in the event of an emergency.
- Create an easy to maintain contact list that includes each person’s name, phone number, email, and role in the caregiving.
- Stay in touch. It can be helpful to request and provide regular updates for those involved in the care of your loved one.
Keep Paperwork Organized
When caring for aging parents long distance, you’ll likely have to keep up with a lot of information. Organization is key, here. Whether it’s an electronic file on your computer or a file filled with paperwork in your desk drawer, designate a single place for all documents and paperwork. While it will take a bit of effort to organize initially, maintaining organization will be simple, and will pay dividends.Keep a record of the following:
- Full legal name
- Social security number
- Legal address
- Date and place of birth
- Names and addresses of spouses and children
- Names and contact details of everyone on care team
- Location of certificates of birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, and citizenship
- Employers and dates of employment
- Military records
- Financial Information
- Names and account numbers of financial institutions where assets are kept
- Income documentation – SSI, disability, pension, etc.
- Most recent tax return
- Debts and how they are paid
- Credit card names and numbers
- Location of legal documents
- Living will
- Advanced directives
- Durable power of attorney
- General power of attorney
- Names and phone numbers of important religious contacts
- Group memberships
- Medication list including dosage
- Insurance policy numbers and agent contact information
- Vehicle title and registration
- Location of safe deposit box and key
Find Back-Up Help
Establish a few back-up care givers who can step in if the primary caregiver is sick, has to go out of town, or experiences an emergency.
While aging parents or loved ones might not be the most tech savvy, that doesn’t mean you can’t use technology to improve the experience of long-distance caregiving. A virtual home assistant such as SmartCompanion is the perfect addition to any long-distance caregiving plan.
SmartCompanion uses Amazon Alexa technology and HIPAA compliant encryption to create an effective caregiving partner. The company even offers free, personal activation assistance to help your loved one set up their system. They will even create a customized, voice activated contacts list, so your loved one can easily reach children, caregivers, and doctors at any time.
Consider In-Home Care to Ease the Burden
Don’t underestimate the benefits of outsourcing some of the caregiving tasks. Even a few hours a week can make a major difference. Veterans Home Care’s exclusive VetAssist program helps Veterans and their surviving spouses apply for the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance. This little-known benefit provides funding for in home care to qualified Veterans and surviving spouses.
The best part is that once an application has been sent to the VA, Veterans Home Care can help long distance caregivers find assistance right away. To find out if your loved one is eligible, contact VHC at (888) 314-6075 for more information about adding a home-care aid to your loved one’s care team.