Whether you live an hour away or are providing care for a parent in a different state, stress and guilt take emotional and financial tolls. And, you’re not alone. Recent studies show about 15 percent of caregivers in the United States are long-distance caregivers, living an average of 450 miles away.
Despite your best efforts, it’s impossible to be available in-person, all the time, so what can you do? Here are some quick tips for those who are caregivers for parents, grandparents, other family members and cherished friends with miles in-between.
Assess What You Can Do
Recognize that it’s okay not to be able to do everything for your parent or loved one. No one person can do it all without help.
Embrace this and then consider what you are able to do.
What are your strengths? Are you good with money? You can offer financial help, paying bills and managing finances. If you’re an organizer, you could coordinate medical care, organize important documents, or arrange for friends and neighbors to visit or bring meals. Other helpful tasks include family communication, finding local resources for transportation or home maintenance, researching senior living options (including respite care), and giving emotional support. Once you know what you can do, you’ll be able to make a plan that fills in the gaps.
Have a Family Meeting
Whether it’s in person, on the phone, or via Zoom or FaceTime, gather the family together to get everyone on the same page. You all need to understand what the issues are and what your parent wants and needs. Then you can work out a plan of action that utilizes everyone’s skill sets and fits everyone’s schedules. This way, everyone has some responsibilities, which they have agreed to take on and this avoids any one person absorbing the bulk of responsibility and obligation, which is a perfect recipe for caregiver burnout. Many hands make light work.
Make sure someone has written permission to receive medical and financial information. These documents can be created with the guidance from an Elder Law Attorney, like the ones at Morneau Law.
Once the plan is in place, communicate regularly about any needed changes and issues.
Plan Visits and Stay Connected
It’s important that you actually get to see your loved one from time to time. If travel is not feasible, some families schedule conference calls with doctors or senior living community staff to get up-to-date information about their parent’s health. Ask how you can help and find out what your loved one needs.
The objective is to spend quality time with your loved one. Join them in their hobbies. It can be simple and relaxing, like going for a drive or to the movies, reading together, playing cards, or just having breakfast together.
Don’t underestimate phone calls and emails – there are a simple way to reach out, and they go a long way toward keeping your relationship strong.
Have an Emergency Plan
If your loved one has an accident or other emergency, you need to have a plan in place so you can get there on short notice. Set up a support system of people who can step in for you while you’re gone, whether it’s helping with the kids, the pets or your job. Keep a list of their contact information and agreed-upon roles. You might want to keep a travel bag packed with toiletries and essential clothing, so you don’t have to stop and think about what to bring with you.
Distance is a challenge when caring for elderly parents. But it can be made more manageable with planning and forethought. With some strategic planning and a team effort, you can make sure your loved one is getting the assistance they need and that help is available should it be required, as quickly as possible.
Choosing the Right Elder Law Attorney
Navigating this complex system to ensure you and your loved ones have the proper plan and paperwork in place to provide the safest and most time efficient care management when needed is important. Morneau Law can assist you with developing a plan that will meet your needs, the needs of your loved one and can help your family meet your goals whether those are maintaining independence and dignity for an aging parent, preserving funds for children and grandchildren, or staying home rather than moving to assisted living or a nursing home.
Contact Morneau Law
Call us today to set up a consultation to discuss your family’s needs and how we can help you decide if you need Medicaid Planning or Estate Planning documents fory our elderly loved one.