As many Americans begin to enjoy longer lives, the need to care for them is growing as well. Often, this task falls to the grown children of older adults, even though they have their own immediate families, jobs, health, and community responsibilities to look after. The job can be even more difficult if the caretakers don’t live in the same geographic area as the “caretake—ee.” Still, approximately 7 million individuals are long-distance caregivers. If you’re wondering whether there’s an easier way to fulfill this duty, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Read on to learn more about how to help elderly parents.
How to care when you can’t be there
No matter what’s keeping you from your elderly parents — a job, distance, or constant travel — here are some ways you can still help them.
Rely on relationships
If you have friends, neighbors, and others that you trust who are geographically close to your loved ones, see if you can enlist the help of these caring individuals. They may be able to call your parents, check in on them, or stop by for a visit once in a while. (However, please note that this is in no way a substitute for qualified, professional home care, which you can learn more about below).
Also make sure that you introduce yourself (by phone, e-mail, or video chat, if not in person) to your loved one’s healthcare professionals. These can include doctors, physical therapists, visiting nurses, and more. You never know when you might to speak with them at length in the future, or coordinate emergency care.
Lightening the load
Similar to having visitors for your mom and dad, if you have siblings who live in the area, ask for them to pitch in. They may be able to do things like perform outside maintenance your parents’ home or lawn, fix little things around the house (or chip in a little money to hire someone), and similar activities. It may help to pick one central person who can coordinate tasks and make sure everyone’s kept in the loop. Remember that it doesn’t necessarily have to be you!
Take advantage of technology
Technology provides a wonderful advantage when it comes to long-distance caregiving. If your parents are agreeable to and able to work with a computer, it can provide a great way to communicate. Now they can e-mail, engage in social media, or utilize video chat. The latter option also provides a great way for you to see each other’s faces instead of just hearing your respective voices over the phone. It also gives you a way to check on your parents’ general appearance, as well as that of their home environment you see in the background.
Another intriguing possibility is security systems that can work alarms and lights with the touch of a (far away) button. Many of these can be set on automatic timers, or you can work them from your computer or cell phone.
Hire home care
In addition to friendly visits and practical assistance by friends and neighbors, consider giving your parents the gift of home care. There will always be certain things that loved ones won’t be able to do for your parents, such give up their 9-5 job to supervise them all day. There are also intimate tasks, such as bathing and visiting the restroom, that they may not feel comfortable performing. And, of course, you want professionally trained, skilled help to provide medical services that a layperson shouldn’t be handling, such as IV administration, or medication monitoring.
How to help elderly parents: taking care of those who took care of you
Some of the techniques for parental caregiving are modern and savvy, like trying out new technologies. But look at how many of them rely on good old community support and professional assistance. Sometimes, the hardest part of any caregiving job – long distance and otherwise – is asking for help. However, once you take this important step, your loved one will have a way to see your love in action – no matter the distance between you!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.