Many baby boomers are concerned about the health and wellbeing of their aging parents. Complicating matters is the fact that a large number of these adult children live far from parents. They feel guilty and worry because they are not close at hand to help.
If you are one of the seven million Americans who provide long-distance care for a family member, here are tips that can reduce your stress while also ensuring quality of care for mom and dad.
- Keep a care notebook/organizer. This serves as your hub, keeping important information quickly accessible. A care organizer template, available from caringforagingparents.com, leads you through gathering care information specific to your parent(s), including a medications list and schedule, financial planning, legal documents, and a home safety checklist, to name a few of the key areas.
- Know your parentâ€™s friends. Exchange phone numbers with your parentâ€™s neighbors and close friends. Ask them to call you if they are concerned for your parent in any way (e.g., havenâ€™t seen them at weekly bridge, theyâ€™re not answering the phone, etc.) Be sure and impress upon them that itâ€™s all right to call any time of the day or night.
- Know your parentâ€™s doctors. Ask your parentâ€™s physician to e-mail a summary of each office visit to you. This keeps you in the loop on changes in medications, health issues, etc. Try to plan a visit that coincides with your parentâ€™s next doctor appointment. This allows you to place a face with a name when you call on your parentâ€™s behalf. It also lets the doctor and staff know that your parent has family who are taking an interest in their medical care.
- Identify your parentâ€™s needs. The Mayo Clinic offers guidelines on gauging what help, if any, your parent needs. This includes observing the appearance of your parent and their home. Does either raise red flags? For instance, is your parent wearing a robe in the middle of the day? Is there a stack of unopened bills on the table? Unwashed dishes in the sink? All of these are indicators that your parent may need assistance.
- Recruit help. Talk to your parent about hiring a helper to shop, clean, cook, do laundry or any other tasks that will make their life easier. Emphasize that bringing in help will keep them independent longer. If family and friends are nearby and willing to help, and the needs are minimal, this may be the route to take. Or you may opt to bring in professionals to assist with daily health care, personal care or household chores.
- Share decision-making. Even when a parent needs help, itâ€™s important to share decisions that impact their life. Include them in discussions about their needs. Rather than telling them what to do, ask them, â€śWhat do you think we should do?â€ť
Navigating care for an aging parent can seem overwhelming, but it doesnâ€™t need to be. Call Meth-Wick Home & Health at (319) 297-8654. We understand the challenges of caregiving from a distance and can offer an empathetic ear and helpful resources.