As an adult in the “sandwich generation” the idea of taking care of your own family while trying to take care of your aging parents can be daunting. Caregiving is complicated even further when you don’t live in close proximity to your aging relatives. The ability to check on their health and daily well-being is impacted as is the ability to help them with healthcare, managing money or keeping up with housework and cooking meals. Taking on the responsibility of caring for your aging parents is a difficult task in the best of times, but when you add distance into the mix, it’s complicated even further.
There are steps you can take to care for and remain involved in your aging parents’ lives even when you live hundreds or even thousands of miles away:
- Solicit help from others. It’s almost impossible to go it alone when trying to care for elderly loved ones when you’re not in the same area as they are. Look for friends, family members, church friends, or neighbors on whom you can rely to check in on your relatives and report back. Look for someone that can help them with daily tasks if necessary.
- Uncover community resources and take advantage of them. Look for federal, state and local senior resources in their hometown and give them a call. Find out what kind of services they provide and how you can get your parents involved in those services. They could range from a Meals-on-Wheels meal delivery service or shuttle rides to and from shopping centers or doctor visits.
- Make certain you are involved in your parents’ medical conditions and that you are listed as a health care proxy and that you have interaction with their physician. Also, keep an up to date list of the medications and health issues your parents are dealing with and keep all of this vital health information together in one place. Ask the doctor for advice on helping your parents manage their health even though you’re not in the area.
- Keep all important documents in a safe place in the event you’re called upon to be a health care proxy or exercise a power of attorney. You should also have copies of your parent’s driver’s licenses, home ownership and legal papers, medical insurance and other critical documents.
- When you’re visiting make certain you schedule enough time to spend with them so you’re not feeling rushed. You want to be able to gauge their health and living conditions and address any issues you may become aware of. Don’t let the visit be all about “checking up on them.” Plan time for a movie or a dinner out or a day excursion.
- Do a visual inspection of the home when you’re there. Is it clean? Is there food in the house? Are there any possible health hazards or trip and fall hazards? Are there minor repair items that need to be addressed? Take care of this when you’re visiting. Would your parents benefit from the installation of a home medical monitoring device? If they’re having health issues and are not comfortable using the telephone, giving them a medical alert device could be a literal lifesaver and will provide the family with peace of mind.
As a caregiver, whether you live close by or out of state, you need to know your own limits and gauge where your strengths lie. If you have other family members that are involved spend some time divvying up the tasks and assign them to the person with the greatest skill in that particular area. Remember, at some point a decision may have to be made to move your aging parents out of the family home and into an assisted living facility and that process is easier if the entire family is involved.