Have you ever found yourself wondering about your elderly mom or dad? “Is he safe?” “Is she happy?” “Is she lonely?” “Is he taking his meds properly?” If so, we have good news for you. These are all things we worry about with elderly parents. You are not alone!
When your elderly parent lives in another state, making sure they are healthy and safe can be stressful and challenging. Ideally, mom or dad would be closer to you, but sometimes that’s not possible.
The best way to make sure your senior parent is safe and healthy is to visit and call as often as possible. Your eyes, ears and nose will tell you if there is a problem. If you have siblings or other family members or friends who live near mom or dad, have them check in and let you know how things are going. You may need to hire a nurse or senior companion to visit regularly. Even a regular housekeeper can make mom’s life easier and help you be sure she’s taking care of herself. A housekeeper would notice issues around the house that others may not.
If your parent has or has had a substance abuse problem, this makes things trickier, and it can cause deeper emotional issues between the two of you. Managing his or her care while being unable to talk to each other is nearly impossible. If you’d like to mend fences, consider seeing a psychologist or substance abuse counselor. Go by yourself at first, then use the strategies you learn in therapy to help you discuss your feelings and work with your parent. You might be able to convince your parent to attend counseling sessions together to help you gain a better bond before the end of his or her life.
The 7 Pitfalls:
1) Not Using Technology
Incorporate technology wherever you can. If your parent has a dog, use an app to hire a dog walker. If your parent needs groceries, medicines, or a handyman, there’s an app for that! If you want to have a real-time view of your parent, get them a tablet and use Skype or FaceTime together. This allows you to have a better connection to one another, and a face-to-face call gives you a chance to check on their wellbeing.
2) Not Having a 911 Plan
Make sure to create a list of emergency contacts - these could include your parents’ friends, neighbors, doctors and faith leaders. If there’s a specific person you trust the most, such as a lifelong friend of your parent, make sure they have a key to your parent’s home.
3) Not Having Medical Records
Make sure to collect a list of important information, such as medication, medical history, insurance information, doctors’ info and pharmacies.
4) Not Having Basic Living Info
It is very important to get the information for all his or her utilities and phone numbers. Most people do not think to compile this info simply because they do not think of it.
5) The Money Runs Dry
Make sure to get all of the financial information related to your elderly loved one. This way you can make a budget to make sure the money does not run dry.
6) Assuming Everything Will Work Out
Most people think that just being a "family member" will be enough to make legal decisions. Sadly that is not the case, so make sure you get copies of all legal documents, especially powers of attorney and living wills.
7) Not Knowing the Full Story
Make sure to find out if you can access your parent’s medical records online. Your parent will likely have to authorize it, but once you have access, you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on with him or her medically and you can contact the doctor through the portal.
4 Things to Remember
1) If you have siblings nearby who take on the majority of the caregiving work, make a point to regularly stay in contact with them. Don’t abandon them to shoulder it all. When you go for a visit, coordinate with them on what needs to be done while you’re in town, and give your siblings some time off. Everyone needs respite care.
2) Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Being a caregiver of any type is stressful for you and your family. Whether it’s taking time out of your day to decompress or making sure you fit in a walk or a nap, self-care is crucial. It might even help to look for support groups for caregivers in your community. It can be hugely beneficial to meet others who are going through something similar.
3) Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to be a caregiver. Everyone has different strengths and abilities. If you feel guilty for not being near your parent, try not to be so hard on yourself. It’s not an easy situation!
4) Whatever you do, don’t forget to spend time with your parent. When you visit, don’t just make it a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments and checking on their medical care. Spend time with your mom or dad, and let them know that you love them. Take them out and even have a little fun. You’ll create some precious memories, and your good times will sustain you during the hard days.
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