How to help care for your elderly parent if you don’t live nearby

Many people with an aging parent are faced with a predicament. They want to make sure that their parent is cared for, but it’s difficult because they live hundreds of miles away. If you want to be sure that your elderly parent is cared for even if you don’t live nearby, there are solutions.

According to an article in Better Homes and Gardens, a survey cosponsored by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that more than 7 million Americans have become long-distance caregivers — those managing care for a relative over 55 years old who lives at least an hour away.

  • Plan ahead. You need to prepare for the unexpected. You should schedule a visit before crisis time of at least a week. During this visit you can set up a support system of friends, relatives and neighbors. Get to know the people in your parent’s life so you can call them when you need someone to look in on your parents. Also get to know your parent’s doctors. If possible have your parent schedule a visit while you are in town.
  • Get copies of essential documents and information. Have available Social Security numbers, health insurance policies, medical histories, wills, power-of attorney paperwork, and healthcare proxies. The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) provides information and support to caregivers. It has developed a form to help remember what information to collect.
  • Visit the doctor with your parent. Have your parent schedule a doctor’s appointment for your visit. Discuss their relative physical and mental health. Ask their primary doctor for a referral to a geriatrician.
  • Involve the rest of the family. Long-distance caregiving is a job for more than one person. You’ll need to call on other family members and friends. Some find novel ways to involve the whole family. If relatives can commit to “adopting” your elderly relative for a monthlong period this can allow for more focused caregiving without exhausting the caregivers. During the assigned month, family members can call the relative frequently, visit when possible and send care packages with staple items.
  • Identify community resources. Many churches and synagogues have volunteer services with outreach to the elderly. You can also contact your local area agency on aging. Resources can be found through the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator at  www.eldercare.gov, which helps identify programs in your area including Meals-on-Wheels and Friendly Visitor programs. The National Council on Aging also offers resources at www.benefitscheckup.org.
  • Get professional help. A growing field of professionals can help you care long distance. Companies like Encompass Senior Solutions can evaluate the needs of your elderly parent. Encompass can provide assessments which result in an in-depth living strategy. This strategy, or game plan, allows families to make informed decisions about the appropriate next steps. If assistance is necessary, our assessment will explain all the options available in the community to meet your needs.
Encompass Senior Solutions currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of the available care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. All Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today for help with your senior care needs.

“Encompass Senior Solutions solves the problems families face in finding home health care providers they can trust. Providers who will focus on strategies that keep parents in their homes. To learn more about our health care services, visit http://www.encompass-home-health-care.com.”