Mary Alexander: Hi! I'm Mary Alexander with Home Instead Senior Care, and I'm discussing how to best manage long-distance care-giving. Now I want to explain what can be done when you're far away. Let's face it.
Care-giving is not easy for anyone. Most of us have jobs, a spouse, children, and activities that take up the majority of our time. Adding in the responsibility as a family caregiver especially one at a distance to an already overloaded schedule could be overwhelming and difficult, but it's not impossible.
Long-distance caregivers fill many roles. Some provide emotional support and occasional respite to the primary caregiver who lives nearby. Others play a part in arranging for professional, non-medical caregivers, hiring home health, and nursing aids or locating assisted living in nursing homecare.
Some long-distance caregivers help a parent pay for care, while others step in to manage finances. Regardless of your role, you should prepare for the amount of time that is needed to be a long-distance caregiver. Even though, you're likely to utilize the assistance of friends, family, and outside paid services, studies show that nearly 50% of long-distance caregivers devote one full workday a week to managing their loved ones' care.
As a long-distance caregiver, it is important to be organized. I suggest creating a care notebook. This notebook should include all of the vital information about healthcare, social services, contact numbers, and financial issues. The first few pages should include the social security number, date of birth, health insurance and Medicare Medicaid numbers.
In the healthcare section, include information about your parents' illnesses and treatment programs. This information can help you understand what is going on. Anticipate the course of an illness, prevent the crisis, and assist in disease management; it can also make talking with the doctor easier.
Speaking of the doctor; the next step is to arrange to communicate with your loved ones' healthcare providers. When visiting your parent, consider going along on a doctor's appointment. You can also ask your parents to complete a release form that allows the doctor to discuss your senior loved ones' healthcare with you. Be sure the release is up-to-date, and that there is a copy in your parents' records in addition to keeping a backup copy for your care notebook.
Next on your list; make sure all of your parents' estate documents are in order. This includes wealth, living wealth, power of attorney, deeds, long-term care plans, and healthcare proxies.
In some cases, parents may not want to share personal information with you. Try to ease their concerns by reminding them that this will only be used in an emergency, and that you'll respect their privacy. If they are still hesitant, suggest an attorney, trusted friend or another family member.
For the next section of your care notebook, get local listings for services where your senior lives. You can start gathering information over the internet. Request a copy of the area phone book or the local senior center for a list of local elder care services.
This section should also include contact information and contracts or plans for any outside services you've arranged. This could include non-medical homecare, home health aids, physical, and occupational therapy, and meals on wheels.
Lastly, if your parents need help with managing their finances, get permission to be able to access their online banking, bill paying, and financial management materials. This is something that can be easily accomplished from the comfort of your own home, and may provide needed relief for your parents.
As with everything else, keep copies in your care notebook, and if there are other caregivers, make copies of the full notebook for them as well. Now that you know what kind of care and assistance maybe needed for your loved one, let's get started on how to make sure to take care of yourself.