Long distance caregiving is a situation that many adult children face. Finding a way to be an effective participant in a parents care when you're miles away is not impossible. Phone calls, handling paperwork, taxes are all items that can be handled from just about anywhere. (Thanks internet!)
How else can we help our loved ones when we have busy & complicated lives far away? First, make a list of what help they need now and project what they'll need in the future. Write down all the people that you and your loved one know. Who might be best to handle daily care? Who loves to run errands? Ask each person on the list what they feel comfortable doing and don't ask for more than that.
The next challenge is to make your loved one understand that this long distance caring network is important for them to embrace. Utilizing a service like Lots of Helping Hands to organize who is doing what may allow them to feel secure that help is really there. Frame this network as a way to “give Uncle John something to do” or “help your neighbor Jenny feel less worried about you.” This also allows them to maintain some dignity. Make sure your loved one knows each persons boundaries. A caring network can quickly fall apart if people feel sucked in to doing more than they're comfortable doing. Giving your loved one the option of accepting friends & family helpers or paying for care might be useful. Lastly, a combination of friends and family plus paid care might be the best option if their budget allows.
Other Long Distance Caregiving Options
Consider the possible benefits of an adult or assisted living community. In a community of 55+ year old residents your loved one may have more options for a caregiving network. Many 55+ communities have systems in place to make sure each resident is regularly accounted for. One near me has a central location for their mailboxes that is monitored by staff.
Assisted living is the most expensive option but might be a good alternative if there are few people that can help. It's also an alternative to consider carefully if your loved ones care needs are quite great. Visit many assisted living communities, talk to your local senior ombudsman services to help find the right fit. They are the most knowledgeable about each community and what they have to offer. It's important that the community work with your loved ones needs and personality.
There are even informal elderly care co-housing options that may work better financially for some. Being outgoing and social might be necessary to feel comfortable in this type of living situation.
Co-housing — defined as private homes clustered around shared space with a group of people committed to being a community — is an established phenomenon in Northern California. Co-housing specifically for those over the age of 55 is relatively new, but an excellent alternative to consider. Read ‘This is the future of aging’: Senior co-housing communities provide alternatives.
Whichever care plan you and your loved one choose can always change as their needs change. The most important step is to initiate making a plan.
Listen in to this weeks episode to learn about one dementia daughters journey as a long distance caregiver.