Helping elderly parents may seem difficult in the beginning, especially when the care must be done from a distance. However, it can be done with the many resources that are available both in-person and online.
Read on to find out how you can help your parents and have long distance not be an issue. Many resources are available, along with different in-home resources as well.
How to Care for Aging Parents Long Distance
As the years go by and you get older, so do your parents. As your parents get older, there may come a time when extra help is needed from you. Living far away from your parents may seem hard, but the technology and assistance available today can help make this time in your life a little easier.
Your Parents Can Use Assistance Aids
Assistance aids can come in many forms. Whether your elderly parents need alarms for reminders set or added assistance with walking or using the bathroom, assistance aids can be put in place.
When purchasing an Echo, you are also purchasing Alexa. Alexa can be set up to remind your parents of one-time events such as doctor’s appointments, or reminders can be set for the same time every day to take medications. For example:
- If your mom or dad has a doctor’s appointment on Monday at 10:30 a.m., a reminder can be set for 10:00 a.m., reminding them of the appointment coming up.
- If your mom or dad has to take their medication at the same time every day, a reminder can be set for that as well.
Anyone can set reminders for Alexa to keep. One of the times you stop by and visit your parents, you can set the medication reminders up for them to help them stay on track.
Assistance aids can also come in physical forms. Contacting an Occupational therapist can be beneficial and they can give you many ideas for home modifications. Safety handrails can be placed all around your parent’s home to help with walking or climbing. Essential places to put safety handrails would be:
- Throughout hallways
- In showers- Replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers can also prevent any tripping and falling that can happen if your parents are having trouble lifting their feet higher. Learn more about adapting bathrooms and toilets here.
- Next to toilets
- Near main doors that lead outside the home
Another helpful, quick fix would be to replace all knobs throughout the house with either levers instead of door handles or handles instead of cabinet knobs. If your parents have weaker joints or arthritis in their hands or fingers, these quick changes will help. This way, your parents can still open cabinets or doors with ease when at home by themselves.
Purchasing a grabber is another valuable tool to have in the home. As your parents age, bending over to pick items up can become a painful task. Grabbers can be used for picking items up off the floor or from higher places, eliminating the need to climb a ladder as well.
Hire Home Care Services for Your Parents
Home care services provide added support for your elderly parents when you cannot be there. These services will also allow for your aging parents to remain living in their homes longer. Home care services take on many forms, including:
- Personal care– Helping your parents get dressed and preparing meals
- Transportation– Transporting your parents anywhere they would need or want to go, in case they no longer can or want to drive
- Home services– Keeping your parent’s house cleaned, doing their laundry, and going to the grocery store
- Nursing services– Helping your parents take their medications or giving injections if needed
If your parents went from doing everything on their own to slowly not being able to do as much, it could be hard to accept. By hiring home care service providers, not only can you make your parent’s day-to-day life smoother, but it can also ease any frustrations and allow your parents to not feel as isolated in their own homes if they are unable to move around or leave the house on their own.
All of these services can be provided by individuals and agencies alike. Both options will have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Hiring an individual can be cheaper, but if that person is unable to come during their shift, then your parent is left on their own. Hiring an agency may be more expensive, but if someone cannot make their shift, a replacement should already be set up, so your parent is covered.
Your parent’s insurance may or may not cover these services. However, paying extra for the added help can ease the stress of not being able to be there as often. But be careful; elder abuse exists, so be sure to do your research. Run background checks if you must and ask as many questions as you need to. Keeping your parents safe when living long distance is extremely important.
Hire a Geriatric Care Manager for Your Parents
A Geriatric Care Manager is a professional in elderly care. Geriatric Care Managers can help families that live a long distance from their elderly parents. Geriatric Care Managers can visit your parents at home and see what needs to be taken care of. If extra services are needed, these care managers can find and provide information on needed services.
Geriatric Care Managers can also keep family members informed and work with families to set up short and long-term plans regarding their parents.
- Short-term plans would be if your aging parent needs help for a shorter period of time. For example, if they were released from the hospital and will only need help for the next couple of months to possibly a year
- Long-term plans would be if your aging parent will need help due to ongoing health conditions. For instance, if they are dealing with these health conditions for the rest of their life
Geriatric Care Managers can also give you the options or choices needed when having to make more complex decisions regarding your parents or if you have any questions regarding any of your parent’s health care needs. These care managers can serve as advocates for your parents and yourself at the same time. They can be advocates for your parents when you cannot be there, and they can be advocates for you when things get emotional, or you need added support.
Keep in Touch with Your Parents
Keeping in touch with your parents nowadays is a lot easier. Call your parents at least once a week, if you can, to see how they are doing. If your parents are more familiar with technology, keeping in touch can be done with:
Being able to talk to your parents and see them simultaneously can be better than a phone call. This way, too, you can physically see them. In the event you video chat and see a bump or scratch on their head or face, you can ask them about it. Or possibly by being able to read their facial expressions, you can tell if everything is going well for them.
Keeping in touch with video chat or by phone call can help keep communication with your parents open as well. Even just leaving a voicemail message for them to call you back will let them know you are thinking of them and letting them know, no matter how far away you live, you are only just a phone call away.
Talk to Your Close Family Friends or Your Parent’s Neighbors
Having family friends that your parents are familiar with can be extremely helpful. Family friends can be asked to stop by and check in on your parents in case you are unable to get ahold of them. If family friends are available or have the extra time, they can be asked to run errands or pick up groceries for your parents as well. If you have family friends who are busy or feel uncomfortable asking friends to run errands, you could just ask for their help once in a while to do a wellness check on your parents.
Also, having neighbors your parents are familiar with keep a watchful eye can be added help. Neighbors can check in on your parents as well or can call you if they notice anything different. If your mom is usually out in her garden at certain times of the day every week and, one week, your mom’s neighbor does not see her, then your mom’s neighbor would know to either check on your mom or call you.
Plan Visits with Your Parents
Living farther away can be difficult as your parents get older. Make plans to visit and stay with your parents when you can, even if the visits are just overnight or for the weekend. Being in the same home as your parents can give you a better idea of how well they are doing. You will be able to see:
- How well your parents are moving around
- If your parents are still driving
- If any extra help may be needed
Take the time when visiting to see how your parents are handling themselves day-to-day. If certain chores seem to be more difficult for your parents to do on their own, you can talk to them about hiring someone to help keep the house clean or to do smaller tasks that may have become more difficult to do on their own.
If your parents have a specific doctor’s appointment that needs to be done or a more important conversation with the doctor providing extra care, it will be helpful if you can be there for those types of conversations. There will come a time when more in-depth conversations about your parent’s care and health will need to be discussed. These types of conversations can be easier to have face-to-face rather than over the phone.
While You’re There: Set Up Important In-Person Meetings
Planning visits with your parents will also be beneficial if the decision to move your parents out of their home and into a senior living home or apartment complex has been made. Phone calls can be made long distance as far as setting up times and dates that will work to come to visit and check the places out. However, being in town for the walkthrough will be much easier done during a visit with your parents when you will already be there.
AARP offers an assisted living checklist that you can print and bring with you on the facility visits. Each section is then broken up into subsections that have yes or no answers that can be checked and open-ended sections where you are given space to take notes. The checklist is broken up into three sections:
- Phone call
By bringing the checklists with you on your visits, you can get detailed information on each place, and you will not have to worry about forgetting to ask a specific question. The detailed information collected on your visits can help you make your decision when the time comes.
Added Support When Caring for Aging Parents Long Distance
Caring for elderly parents, even with extra help, can still be extremely hard and emotional at the same time. It is normal to feel worn out or to even feel guilty because you are not able to be there as often as you would like due to the long distance. During these more challenging times, it is important to still take care of yourself as well.
Resources For Long-Distance Care Will Make Your Task Easier
Eldercare Locator is a great online resource that is available. There is a phone number to call, or a search can be done by zip code or city/state. The six main services available are:
- Support services
- Elder Rights
- Insurance and Benefits
When any of these services are clicked on, you are brought to a detailed page about it. Also included are links to more resources, such as checklists and brochures. There is also a Caregiver Corner section with links and resources to common questions received at Eldercare Locator.
Take Time for Yourself
Remember during this time of taking care of your elderly parents to also take the time to take care of yourself. Taking care of your parents when the time comes can become incredibly stressful. Adding the longer distance care can add to your stress levels. Learning to manage your stress can be difficult, but it can be done. Find activities you enjoy to reduce your stress, like finding a new hobby or starting up one you have not done in a while.
Ask for help when you need it and, if help is offered to you, take it. Feeling overwhelmed is normal and can be eased with help from others. All you have to do is allow help to happen.
Exercise: Easy, Natural Relief
Whether exercising was an activity you did before but stopped, or have never really been interested in, now is the time to start. Exercising can be worked into your daily routine and does not have to include a gym membership.
- Any amount of walking a set number of days a week, even if it is only two days, can help with your mood.
- Gentle Calisthenics is based on all bodyweight exercises; sit-ups and pushups are great examples. These types of exercises can even be done at home while watching T.V.
- Grab your old bicycle, make sure it is in good working order, and just go for a ride, letting the wind take you away.
Look for Support Groups in Your Area
Support groups can be in-person or online. Finding in-person support groups in your area will allow you a chance to get out of the house. You can be around other people who understand what you are going through. It will also be great for you to see others who have the same feelings as you, so you do not feel so alone.
Being in a support group can give you valuable information you might not be able to get anywhere else. The information you receive can also help you navigate your way through the process of caring for your parents smoother. You may have tried one avenue that did not work; bring that to a group of people that understand what you are going through. They might be able to give you solutions you never thought of or considered.
If speaking face-to-face is not something you are comfortable with, support can be found online as well. Dale Carter shares on her blog her experiences of taking care of her aging mother. She too is a long-distance caregiver.
Helping your elderly parents long distance can absolutely be done. Planning visits with your parents, helping to modify their homes, and hiring home care services are all great options. While the changes to come may be difficult, take time to take care of yourself as well. You will not be much help to your parents in the long run if you end up getting sick from not taking care of yourself.
For more information on you can contact an Occupational Therapist for a free 15 minutes call to discuss your requirements.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this Blog article are not intended to amount to advice, and you should not rely on any of the contents of this Blog article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this Blog article. OccupationaltherapyBlog disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this Blog article.