OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS…TO THE AIRPORT?
It is not uncommon for families to be separated by great distances during the holidays. Living in a different city or state – miles from aging parents – can be very difficult. Keeping in touch by telephone and making long trips to help parents or aging relatives with their needs can be time consuming and not nearly as effective as being available full time in person. The long distance caregiver is a new role that is thrust upon children and younger family members. Families used to live closer together, with children residing and working near their parents. But nowadays family members are more distant from each other. Some caregiver services have tweaked their programs to work as liaisons between long distance caregivers, senior loved ones and local medical professionals.
DETERMINE NEEDS & DISCUSS SOLUTIONS WITH PROFESSIONALS
The most important thing to do is find a geriatric care manager in the area where your loved one lives. She will have knowledge of all the services in the area and can be your eyes.
1. Begin by making a thorough assessment of your parent’s situation. You need to make sure that what you hear long distance from your parent or about your parent matches the reality of the situation. Everyone has different perceptions about how one should live and when one’s safety is at risk. A dirty or cluttered house may not mean a parent can no longer live by himself, only that he needs help in caring for his home. If you are uncertain about the situation, consider an assessment by an outside professional who can offer a more objective evaluation. Here is where a geriatric care manager can help.
2. Once you understand the issues, a care plan can be put in place. Are there people or agencies available to provide him with delivered meals? Are there senior centers where he can go? Are their funds to pay for services he might need?
3. There may be a great deal of emotional turmoil, guilt and concern in regards to an aging parent.. Remember that if your parent is still able to articulate what she wants, and a physician determines she still has the capacity to make her own decisions, then it is her decision as to where and how she lives. All you can do is ensure that she is making an informed decision and share your concern with her.
HELP IS AVAILABLE. JUST ASK!
Each person’s situation is different. Each child had a different relationship with their parent, and this may also determine the level of your involvement. Think about your parent’s needs and your own needs as well. You cannot force services upon a parent who is capable of making decisions and willing to live with some level of risk in order to remain at home.
You don’t need to do it all yourself. Elicit the help of family members and friends, and, if appropriate, find a professional who knows the resources and can help you through the maze of decision making. You do not have to face this alone.
Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies