Overseeing the care of an aging relative from a distance is stressful. And since so many families live miles apart, the concerns of a parent’s safety, health, and nutrition is hard to coordinate and manage when distance is a factor.
The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates 44 million Americans care for an older parent, and almost 20 percent of them live at least one hour away from the parent.
And close to 33 percent provide care at a distance for someone living with a form of dementia. It’s hard to believe, but 25 percent of the long distance family members say they are the main person overseeing a relative’s care.
AARP relates to long-distance caregiving as the new standard for family members. Families first split apart when kids move to another city to college and never return. After the young adult graduates, they take jobs in far off places and sometimes out of state.
In the report by MetLife, even the adults over 65 are mobile today. Almost 65 percent have moved to other states in the last ten years. And when they need help with the activities of daily living tasks, it’s up to the child living away to coordinate the care.
Challenges of Long-Distance Caregiving
The challenges can be overwhelming like finding local resources to help the parent out. Other hardships:
• The household – before taking on a parent’s care, create a plan for your home and your immediate family. Let them know your schedule and discuss how it will affect them. Remember to balance the needs of your parents with the needs of your family.
• Your job – long distance caregiving can impact work. Don’t make any significant changes, like quitting the job. It will threaten your financial security. Discuss all options with your employer or the human resource department to make your employment fit with parent care.
• Your care – don’t put everyone else first and ignore your health. So many people count on you that it’s easy to forget about yourself. The kids, the job, the spouse, and now your parents rely on you. Remember to step back and take ample time for yourself.
• Your finances – Families who care for parents report spending $200 a month out-of-pocket on an aging relative. The money pays for prescriptions, home maintenance, food, and travel expenses.
Things To Do
• Organize the parent’s paperwork – Gather a loved one’s personal, health, financial and legal records. It’s easier to put in file and store in one place. Do it before an emergency occurs and when you’re under the gun.
• Organize the network of care – Put together a list of contacts, phone numbers, and addresses:
• Healthcare providers
• Insurance agents
• Home care agency
• Geriatric care manager
• Local aging resources
The best choices to connect are via a phone call, a text, Skype, and Facebook.
Get prepared before an emergency happens. Put a plan together for those who want to help. Set aside extra money in case you need to travel. Learn more about the Family Medical and Leave Act from the HR department.
Carol Marak is the editor at SeniorCare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of California-Davis.