By Joy Loverde
The modern day reality of long-distance caregiving is being limited in terms of relationships, time, distance, stamina, and skill. Here are a few tips from my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner on how to create a network of support from others who can help share the care and lighten our load:
1. Create a care team. The help that we receive from a more informal network of support may be more readily available, reliable and affordable than paid care providers. Make a list of people who can help you: family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors, parents’ friends and neighbors, church members, and community volunteers. Write down contact information (phone and email) and give this list to your parents and key family members.
2. Tap into local resources. Contact the following organizations to secure volunteers: senior centers, aging agencies, church groups, senior's organizations, youth clubs, retirement groups, volunteer organizations, universities with gerontology centers, and local chapters of specialized illness organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the Arthritis Foundation.
3. Make a list. Now that you know who can help you, define how they help. Make a list of family caregiving needs – yours and your elders’. The next time someone says, "What can I do?" let them pick from your list. If they don't ask, pick up the telephone and solicit their assistance. Update this list regularly since your needs and the needs of your aging parents will certainly change. If a family member seems reluctant to help, ask that person to contribute financially as a way to be of assistance; then you decide how to make the best use of the money.
4. Identify a network of professionals. Eldercare services are a telephone call away. Visiting nurses, geriatric case managers, health care providers, transportation providers, professional shoppers, bookkeepers, personal care professionals, legal and financial advisors and others are members of a growing network of professionals who make house calls. Ask friends and family for referrals, or visit the local agency on aging website.
5. Create 24-hour access. Be sure you and several trusted individuals who live close to your parents have duplicate keys to your parents’ home, car, and mailbox, electronic openers, and combinations to locks.
6. Check in regularly. In addition to making contact by telephone, consider implementing community programs which keep tabs on your parents’ well being, and in touch with others who can help you monitor their health and safety: telephone reassurance programs, postal carrier alert, emergency response devices, friendly visitors programs, escorts, and meals-on-wheels. Call the local agency on aging for more information. Ask a neighbor or friend to check in on your aging relative on a regular basis. Pay them for their time. If they don’t except money, buy them small gifts to show your appreciation.