Since I live over 2,000 miles from my own parents, I often wonder how I will manage eldercare responsibilities if and when they begin to need more help. I know I won't be alone in this predicament. Families are spread farther and farther apart these days and it is less likely that adult children will be readily available to provide direct eldercare.
As a result, many of us are long distance caregivers - a role that carries with it unique responsibilities and concerns. Do you provide long distance eldercare? If so, here are some tips for doing so successfully, adapted from the booklet, So Far Away: Twenty Questions for Long Distance Caregivers by the National Institute on Aging.
Finding Eldercare Resources
Luckily, the Internet has made it easier for those providing long distance eldercare to find resources in another part of the country. Try the Eldercare Locator to find eldercare resources in your parent's community. One of these resources should be your parent's Area Agency on Aging, which can help you identify more specific eldercare services and explain whether your parent might be eligible for government assistance.
Determining Eldercare Needs
If you haven't been able to see your parent in person for awhile, it might be hard to know his or her eldercare needs. If you can visit, this is a great way to really understand your parent's day to day needs. If you can't visit, get in touch with any relatives, neighbors, friends, and others who live nearby to find out whether your parent simply needs help with household chores or needs more personal care like help with bathing and dressing.
Be sure to assess your parent's home to identify any safety hazards, such as steps that are too hard to manage now, fire hazards, and cords or rugs that result in trips and falls. Also, if you hire a home care aide or related professional, it's important to screen and monitor the person carefully. For more information, see these articles:
Identify Yourself as a Caregiver
If you're providing long distance eldercare for your parent, it's important to remember that you're still a caregiver. Call your own Area Agency on Aging and ask what caregiver support groups are available. There might even be a group specifically for long distance caregivers that allows you to discuss your unique issues and concerns.
If you provide long distance eldercare for your parent, please share your thoughts with the community about this unique topic. Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to subscribe to our RSS Feed to receive regular updates about new topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D