Caring for an aging parent can be incredibly difficult. If you provide this type of support, you’re probably dealing with a lot of stress. While being a caregiver is always difficult, there are unique challenges involved when you don’t live close to your loved one.
Whether your parent lives an hour away or halfway across the country, you probably can’t see each other as often as you’d like.
Limited in-person contact can lead to feelings of worry and guilt. You may have questions that seem impossible to answer from a distance. Is mom still safe living alone? How often does dad feel lonely?
Decision-making can be especially hard. Maybe you want to know what’s going on so you can step in and provide more help when it’s needed. Perhaps you’ve taken on a legal responsibility to make medical decisions for your parent. Either way, remaining informed is critical.
Unfortunately, staying in the loop isn’t always easy when you don’t live nearby. And maintaining a connection with your parent can be equally challenging. But these goals are far from unachievable.
In this post, we’ll provide some tips for keeping up to date and providing much-needed support for your mom or dad—even when you can’t be there in person.
Explore your parent’s options
Has your parent expressed a desire to continue living at home? According to one study, 83% of baby boomers share this preference.
Of course, whether this option is feasible is determined by many factors. The most suitable living arrangement for your parent will depend on the facts.
Health status is one factor. Someone with advanced dementia or especially complex care needs may not be a good candidate for living at home. Performing health-related research can help you better understand your parent’s current and future needs.
Research can also help when you have a choice of services providers. Selecting the right home care agency or long-term care facility can mean better quality of life for your parent—and greater peace of mind for you.
Of course, finances are often another key consideration. While the Ontario government is increasingly investing in home care, the hours available to your parent may fall short of what she or he needs. For many adult children, staying abreast of an aging parent’s financial situation is crucial.
Keep yourself in the loop
Staying in touch with the medical and caregiving professionals in your aging parent’s life is important. Whether you’re a substitute decision-maker or someone who provides general support, it makes sense to stay in the loop.
If you’re authorized to access your parent’s health information, you’re in a better position to help.
For those with a legal obligation to make health decisions, knowing about changes in health status is especially important. If you lived near your dad’s health care practitioners, you might accompany him to appointments. In general, keeping track of and reaching out to his doctors and specialists would be simpler.
As a long-distance caregiver, things aren’t so easy. Frequent phone calls aren’t always possible. In many cases, phone tag can hold up necessary procedures or changes to care plans and prescriptions.
And there’s another important reason to stay up-to-date: it allows you to provide truly beneficial support. Your mother’s nurse or care coordinator can fill you in on exactly what she really needs. Without the aid of a professional, it can be difficult to offer appropriate emotional support.
Technology can help. Digital medical records and care plans allow authorized family members to see health information in real-time. From anywhere in the world, you can get the facts you need to make crucial decisions.
You can also connect with your aging parent’s circle of care via videoconferencing. In the age of patient and family-centred care, health practitioners know the benefits of a loved one’s involvement. Mobile technology makes connecting easy and convenient—even for busy professionals.
According to Statistics Canada, 1.4 elderly Canadians are lonely. Often, social isolation is the main cause of these feelings. And the consequences—including lower quality of life, depression, and even early fatality—are serious.
It’s no wonder we worry about loved ones who spend most of their time alone. If you live at a distance from your aging parent, these concerns may be especially hard to deal with.
The daughter who lives down the street from her mother can walk over anytime for a visit. Not only that, but she can check in to make sure everything is okay. Is mom taking her medication? Is she remembering to take the garbage out? Is she in good spirits?
From far away, it’s harder to spot the signs that day-to-day life is becoming unmanageable for an aging parent.
There’s no doubt that phone calls can help. But they can’t provide the same sense of connection that you and your loved one enjoy during a face-to-face visit. And they can only provide so much information about how your parent is actually doing.
Visiting in person is the ideal solution. It’s useful for families to get organized. When possible, it makes sense to coordinate visits so that elderly loved ones aren’t alone for too long.
Video also has a role to play. The right videoconferencing app will help adult children connect with their aging parents, wherever they are.
Apps are becoming more intuitive and easier-to-use than ever before. Older adults who have mobility issues, cognitive challenges, and difficulties with technology can now use this technology to reach out for support.
Feature image courtesy of Vinoth Chandar