How To Help Elderly Parents From A Distance? 7 Tips
There's no doubt that long-distance caregiving for aging parents is a challenging and emotionally taxing experience.
With about 15 percent of caregivers in the U.S. living an average of 450 miles away from their loved ones, financial stress and feelings of guilt can take a toll.
The pandemic exacerbated issues of social isolation and loneliness among seniors, but it also introduced new resources to help caregivers stay connected.
This guide will offer strategies and actionable tips for ensuring the safety and well-being of your loved ones from a distance, including using technology, sharing caregiving duties with family members, and making the most out of limited visits.
Online tools like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype can make it easier for you to check on your aging parents, coordinate care services, and plan virtual events.
Establish a reliable network of people who can cover your responsibilities in an emergency involving your parent, and explore alternative living settings to find the right solution for your family’s needs.
Organize legal and financial paperwork and look into your company's workplace leave policies to better provide comprehensive long-distance care for your parents.
Tip #1: Maximize Your Time During Visits
When you visit an aging parent, it's natural to feel overwhelmed by the tasks that need to be accomplished within a limited timeframe.
To make the most of your visit and reduce stress, communicate with your parent and their primary caregiver beforehand to determine their needs. See if there are any caregiving responsibilities you can take on while you're in town.
By discussing these matters in advance, you can set practical and achievable objectives for your visit.
For example, does your mother need new seasonal clothing or wish to see another family member? Could your father benefit from some help with household repairs? Is there a need to see your mother's physician?
Prioritize these goals for a more productive and meaningful time spent with your aging loved one.
Tip #2: Prepare for Emergencies
In the event of an emergency involving your aging parent, have a well-organized plan to make sure you can respond promptly.
Establish a reliable network of people who can cover your responsibilities, such as childcare, pet care, or work-related tasks, while you attend to your parent. Keep an up-to-date list of their contact info and designated roles for easy reference.
Consider preparing a travel bag containing essential toiletries and clothing items so you can leave quickly.
By having an emergency plan in place, you'll be better equipped to handle unforeseen circumstances and provide support for your parent when they need it most.
Tip #3: Consider Alternatives for Elderly Care
As our parents begin to age, their needs for care and support increase.
In some cases, moving closer to a parent can provide the necessary help, while other families find it more practical to have the parents move closer to their adult children.
However, in some instances, moving may not be an option. Hiring in-home care on a full-time or part-time basis can provide the necessary support for senior parents who prefer to stay in their homes.
Additionally, senior living communities can offer 24/7 access to healthcare, assistance with daily activities, and a built-in social network that combats loneliness.
By exploring alternative living arrangements, you can find the right solution that meets your parent's needs and provides peace of mind for everyone involved.
Tip #4: Look for Local Resources
Here are some local resources available that can provide valuable support to both you and your parents:
Eldercare Locator: You can reach the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116, and they can connect you to a wide range of local services, such as meal delivery, transportation, and home health care.
National Institute on Aging Website: The National Institute on Aging website offers information on health, caregiver support, and caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Family Care Navigator: Family Care Navigator is an online directory of state-by-state resources for family caregivers. You can search for respite care, support groups, and financial assistance.
Your State Government's Website: Most state government websites have sections dedicated to aging services offering caregiver support, adult day care, and assisted living options.
By exploring these resources, you can find the right services to help your aging parent maintain their independence and quality of life while also providing peace of mind for you and your family.
Tip #5: Make Use of Technology
With your loved one's permission, consider using technology to keep you connected. Video monitors, wearable activity trackers, and remote door locks can provide you with peace of mind, especially if your parent has dementia.
Video monitors can be installed in your parents' home to help you keep an eye on them from a distance. This can be especially helpful if your parent has dementia or mobility issues, as you can check in on them to make sure they are safe and not in any distress.
Wearable activity trackers, such as Fitbit, Garmin, or the Apple Watch, can provide real-time updates on your parent's physical activity, location, and overall well-being, alerting you if there are any unusual changes in their routine or behavior.
Remote door locks are another technological tool that can be helpful for caregivers.
If your parent is prone to wandering, these locks can help keep them safe and secure by preventing them from leaving the home without your knowledge.
Additionally, electronic pill dispensers can be programmed to notify you if your parent has missed their medication, helping you to stay on top of their medical needs.
Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Facetime have become increasingly popular over the past few years, allowing people to connect with loved ones from a distance.
These tools can be especially helpful for caregivers, enabling you to have face-to-face conversations with your parents and check on their well-being. With video conferencing, you can also participate in virtual doctor's appointments and coordinate with other members of the care team.
Facetiming technology is another useful tool that you can use to stay connected with your parents.
With Facetime, you can make video calls directly from your smartphone or tablet, making it easy to check in with your parent and see how they're doing. Some wearable technology devices come with built-in Facetime functionality, allowing your parents to call you with just a simple voice command.
Tip #6: Look Into Workplace Leave Policies
Caring for an elderly parent can be a full-time job, and juggling work and caregiving responsibilities can be difficult. Fortunately, there are laws and workplace policies in place that can help caregivers balance both roles.
One of the most important laws for caregivers is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
To qualify for FMLA leave, several requirements must be met, including working for a covered employer, which is defined as any private-sector employer with 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding year, any local, state, or federal government agency, or any elementary or secondary school.
In addition, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and completed at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. You may take FMLA leave either in one block or in smaller periods, and your job will be secure while you are on leave.
If your employer is not covered by the FMLA or you do not meet the eligibility requirements, there may still be options available to you.
Some employers offer paid or unpaid leave specifically for caregiving, so it's worth checking with your HR department to see if these policies are available to you.
You may also be able to negotiate a flexible work schedule or work-from-home arrangements to accommodate your caregiving responsibilities.
Tip #7: Organize Legal and Financial Paperwork
Here, we will discuss the estate planning and financial documents you need to gather and keep updated to provide comprehensive long-distance care for your aging loved ones.
Wills and Trusts
Wills and trusts dictate how your parents' assets will be distributed after their passing. You can typically obtain these documents from your parents' attorney or create new ones with the help of a lawyer.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney document allows you to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of your parents if they become incapacitated.
There are different types of power of attorney, each designed to address specific aspects of your parents' affairs:
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney grants you the authority to make financial decisions on behalf of your parents (managing bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, or handling investments.
Financial powers of attorney can be further divided into two categories:
Durable Financial Power of Attorney: Remains in effect even if your parent becomes incapacitated. You can continue to manage their finances without interruption in case of an unforeseen medical event or cognitive decline.
Non-Durable Financial Power of Attorney: If your parent becomes incapacitated, this becomes invalid. It is typically used for temporary situations, such as when your parent travels and needs you to handle their financial matters during their absence.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
A healthcare power of attorney, also known as a medical power of attorney, empowers you to make medical decisions on behalf of your parents when they are unable to communicate or make decisions for themselves.
You can consent to or refuse medical treatments, select healthcare providers, and make end-of-life decisions.
A healthcare power of attorney works in conjunction with an advance healthcare directive, which outlines your parents' medical treatment preferences.
Advance Healthcare Directives
Also known as a living will, this document outlines your parents' preferences for medical treatment in case they cannot communicate their wishes themselves.
If your parents worked with an attorney to create their Advance Healthcare Directives, the attorney may have a copy on file. Contact the attorney's office to request a copy of the document.
Your parents may have also provided a copy of their Advance Healthcare Directives to their primary healthcare providers. You can contact their doctors or healthcare facilities to check if they have a copy on file that you can obtain.
If your parents do not have an existing Advance Healthcare Directive or are unable to locate it, consider creating a new document with the help of an attorney or using an online service such as LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer.
Encourage your parents to discuss their medical treatment preferences and clearly outline their wishes in the new document.
Gather your parents' health, long-term care, and life insurance policies, along with their policy numbers, coverage details, and contact information for the insurance providers.
Having this information readily available will streamline the process of making claims or discussing coverage when needed.
Make a list of your parents' bank accounts, investments, retirement plans, and other financial assets.
In many cases, you'll need to be granted authorized access to manage or monitor your parents' financial accounts.
They may need to add you as a joint account holder, authorized user, or designated representative.
Each financial institution has its own procedures and forms for granting authorized access, so contact the respective institutions to discuss your options and initiate the process.
Establishing a financial power of attorney, as discussed earlier, can grant you the legal authority to manage your parents' financial matters, including accessing and making decisions regarding their accounts.
Consult with an attorney to create a durable financial power of attorney, ensuring you have the necessary authorization to manage your parents' finances if they become incapacitated.
Mortgage and Property Documents
If your parents own property, gather documents related to mortgages, deeds, and property tax information. This information will help you manage their assets, pay bills on time, and address any property-related legal issues.
If your parents don't have copies of their property deeds, you can obtain them from the local county recorder's office or registrar of deeds. You can usually request copies in person, by mail, or through their online services. There may be a small fee for obtaining these documents.
If you need mortgage-related information and your parents don't have their original documents, you can contact their mortgage lender or loan servicer. Your parents may need to grant you authorization to access this information, which could involve providing written consent or adding you as an authorized representative.
For property tax information, you can visit the local tax assessor's office or access their online services. Property tax records are typically public, so you should be able to obtain this information without the need for special authorization.
Create a list of important contacts, such as family members, friends, neighbors, and care providers who can assist in emergencies or provide local support. Having a network of trusted people can help alleviate some of the challenges of long-distance caregiving.
How Can Trustworthy Help?
Trustworthy is a secure digital storage solution that can help you care for your elderly parents from a distance by providing a safe and organized platform for storing, managing, and accessing their important documents.
With Trustworthy, you can upload and store all essential documents, such as financial records, property-related documents, Advance Healthcare Directives, and powers of attorney, in one secure location. This centralized storage system makes it easier to find and access important information when needed.
You can also grant access to family members or caregivers involved in your parents' care, ensuring that everyone involved has the necessary information at their fingertips. This can facilitate better communication and collaboration in managing your parents' needs.
Trustworthy allows you to share crucial documents with healthcare providers, financial institutions, or legal representatives as needed without having to mail or physically deliver the documents.
You can also easily keep your parents' documents up to date by updating or replacing files as their situation changes or new information becomes available. This ensures that you will always have the most current information when making decisions on their behalf.
By using Trustworthy to store your elderly parents' important documents, you can streamline the caregiving process, improve communication and collaboration among caregivers, and ensure that you have the necessary information readily available to manage their needs from a distance.
Start your free trial today.