Tips for the Long-Distance Caregiver

Caregiving from afar is no easy task.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while contemplating caring for your
parent from a distance.
Create
a Contact List

Assemble address and phone numbers of friends, neighbors, doctors, faith
leaders and others in regular contact with your parents who can be reached in
the event of an emergency. Include at least one person close by who can easily
check in on your loved one. Consider giving this person a key to the home if
your loved one approves. If you don’t already know them, introduce yourself
during a visit to establish relationships should you need to reach out. Give
one copy of this list to your loved one and keep a copy for yourself. These
folks may also be able to help out with shopping, transportation or visits.

Collect
Important Information Before a Crisis

Keep the following information organized and easy to reach in the event of a
crisis.
Medical
  •         Medical records.
  •          Notes on their condition.
  •          A list of medications they take.
  •          Names and phone numbers of all
    doctors.
  •          Name and phone number of their
    pharmacy.

Insurance

  •          A list of insurance policies, the
    carriers and account numbers.
Utilities
  •          Company names and phone numbers for
    all utilities, including electric, phone, cable and Internet.

Financial

  •          A list of all assets and debts
    (include dollar values).
  •          Yearly or monthly income.
  •          Yearly or monthly expenses.
  •          A statement of net worth.
  •          Information on bank accounts, other
    financial holdings and credit cards.

 Legal

  •         Relevant legal documents your loved
    one has or wants to create (i.e. wills, advance directives, trusts,   power(s) of
    attorney).
  •          Location of important documents
    (i.e. birth certificates, deed to home).
  •          Social Security numbers.

Make Visits Productive

Visiting your parent or loved one should be an enjoyable event. But take
advantage of your time together to assess their changing needs.

·        
Before your visit, decide together
with your loved ones what needs to be taken care of while you’re there,
including scheduling any necessary appointments.
  •          Make a list of household items that
    need to be purchased and, if possible, go out and buy them.
  •          Allow time to go through mail and
    old papers. 
  •          Take note of anything out of the
    ordinary and of what they eat. Check to see what they have in their
    refrigerator and pantry and if it’s sufficient.
  •          Look out for safety hazards such as
    loose rugs, missing handrails or poor lighting.

During your visits, you may start to realize that more help is needed on a
regular basis. Think about your parent’s daily needs and whether they are still
being adequately met.  Are they:
  •          Socializing with friends and other
    relatives?
  •          Attending religious services or
    other regular events?
  •          Keeping up with chores or
    housekeeping?
  •          Maintaining their personal
    appearance and hygiene?
  •          Eating well with a variety of foods
    in the house?
  •          Opening and responding to
    correspondence from insurers, banks or others?
  •          Paying bills and balancing the
    checkbook?
  •          Scheduling and getting to doctor
    appointments or other important visits?
  •          Getting out to the store or
    recreational activities?
  •         Maintaining the home?
  •         Taking medication as directed?

If not,
consider additional resources to ensure your loved one is maintaining their
normal routine and staying on top of finances, mail and medications.
Be sure,
however, to spend time enjoying each other’s company, too. A visit that is all
business won’t be good for anyone.
Gather
Information on Community Services

Based on your observations and discussions with your parents, you may want to
look into services in their community that could help them.  Start by
using the Eldercare Locator to
determine which local agencies provide services where your parents live. It
will refer you to the area agency on aging in your parent’s community. Look for
services that fit the needs of your loved ones as well as an organization that
can work with you long distance. Take notes on the services offered, the
application process, waiting lists and fees. If an organization requires an
in-person interview with your parent, find out what documents you will need
prior to the meeting and whether copies will be sufficient. If you can’t be
with your parent at the meeting, consider having one of their emergency
contacts stand in for you. You might be able to join the conversation by
telephone. Make a list of questions you want answered and be sure to have a
contact person to follow up with.
Look
into Public Benefits Online

You can now go online and safely and conveniently get an idea of the different
public assistance programs for which your parents might be eligible. By using
Benefits QuickLINK you can
find helpful state, federal and private benefits programs available where your
parents live. By answering a few questions, you will get fact sheets,
applications and websites for programs that can help them save money and cover
costs of everyday expenses.
Get
Help with Managing the Care

Most communities have professionals who can gauge your loved one’s abilities
and needs and set up a plan for care. You can find this assistance through
government-funded programs by using the Eldercare Locator.
Another option is to hire a private geriatric care manager. A number of
employers are starting to pay for these services and, if your family member has
long-term care insurance, this might be covered under the policy. For a list of
local professionals, visit the National Association of
Professional Geriatric Care Managers or the National Association of Social Workers.
Keep
the Lines of Communication Open

Be sensitive to your parent’s view of the situation. At first they may not want
strangers in their home, or they may have trouble facing change. Maintain a
positive focus, explain how the services will work and that they are designed
to help your parent remain independent. If possible, offer to contribute to the
cost of care without appearing to offer charity. If your suggestions of service
are rebuffed, you can have an objective third party — such as a doctor —
recommend the service.
Don’t
Forget Your Needs

Recognize the strain that long-distance caregiving causes, and take steps to
reduce it.  Accept that it’s impossible for you to provide all the help
your parent needs. Give yourself credit for your efforts to determine needs,
coordinate services and offer support by phone and occasional visits. Ask for
help when you need it. If you don’t feel that other family members are doing
their share, consider a family meeting to help resolve any issues. Eat right,
exercise and get enough sleep.
Mail
Carrier Alert Program

In some communities, mail carriers or utility workers are trained to spot signs
of trouble through the Carrier Alert Program of the U.S.
Postal Service. They report concerns, such as accumulated mail or
trash, to an agency that will check on the older adult. This is a service of
the USPS and the NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) in
collaboration with local non-profits. To find out if there’s a program in your
area, contact the local post office or
NALC branch office, or ask your mail carrier for information.

Source: http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-09-2010/pc_tips_for_long_distance_caregiver.1.html

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