The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defines a long-distance caregiver as an individual who lives one hour or more away from the person who needs care. Whether you are providing support through frequent phone conversations, helping to arrange home care services, or occasionally providing a much-needed break for aging parents, navigating the confusing maze of available resources can become a full-time job very quickly. You are definitely not alone. NIA records indicate there may be more than seven million people throughout the United States in the same situation, regardless of gender, income, age, social status or employment.
Many long-distance caregivers are now looking ahead to summer vacation, about to make another visit to mom and dad who live 100 miles away. Here is a common scenario – although it’s only been a few months since your last visit, your sister who lives nearby has informed you of several worrisome incidents. These increased concerns have you both questioning whether your parents are safe living alone without some additional support.
Here are a few questions for you to consider when determining the next steps and best course of action for your parents’ care and safety:
How will you know if additional help is needed? Spending time with your parents will give you the opportunity to observe daily behaviors and habits. During your visit, encourage them to go about their daily routine, and take note of their memory, eating habits, dressing, and overall mood.
How do I start the conversation with them? If you have observed changes in behavior or activity, ask them how they are feeling, appetite, friendships and energy. If they haven’t had a doctor’s appointment recently, ask them if you can schedule one during your visit, and tell them you’ll feel better knowing everything is alright.
How can I get my extended family involved? After you have gathered the facts from their physician and relatives living close by, consider holding a family meeting to discuss next steps. Although not everyone is comfortable with the role of caregiver, this is the time to begin an open, honest conversation about your parents’ needs, as well as the roles, responsibilities and limitations within the family.
To learn more about the resources available in your community contact Liberty at Home, a service of Liberty Lutheran. Dana O’Donnell R.N., Director of Liberty at Home: 215-643-6496.