Providing care and support for an aging parent who lives far away can present a variety of challenges that can make the job difficult and stressful. Here are some tips and resources that may help you.
When it comes to monitoring and caring for an aging parent from afar, you have a couple of options. You can hire a professional to oversee your parent’s needs, or you can manage things yourself by building a support system, tapping into available resources, and utilizing technology devices that can help you keep tabs on them.
If your parent needs a lot of help, you should consider hiring a geriatric care manager who will give a thorough assessment to identify needs and will set up and manage all aspects of their care. But geriatric care managers are expensive, typically charging between $100 and $250 per hour after an initial assessment of $150 to $750, and are not covered by Medicare.
To find a geriatric care manager in your parent’s area, visit AgingLifeCare.org or contact the nearest Area Agency on Aging (800-677-1116) to see if they have a list of providers.
If however, your parent only needs occasional help, or if you can’t afford to use a care manager, here are some things you can do yourself to help:
1. Create a Care Team
Put together a network of people (nearby friends or family, neighbors, clergy, etc.) who can check on your parent regularly, and who you can call on from time to time for occasional help. Also put together a list of reliable services you can call for household needs like lawn care, handyman services, plumber, etc.
2. Tap Local Resources
Most communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that can help seniors with basic needs such as home-delivered meals, transportation, senior companion services, and more. Contact the nearby Area Aging Agency to find out what’s available.
3. Use Financial Tools
If your parent needs help with their financial chores, arrange for direct deposit for their income sources, and set up automatic payments for their utilities and other routine bills. You can also set up her online banking service, so you can pay bills and monitor her account anytime. Or, if you need help, hire a daily money manager to do it for you. They charge between $25 and $100 per hour.
4. Check Essential Documents
This is also a good time to make sure your parent has the following essential legal documents: a will; a living will and health-care proxy, which allows you to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated; and a durable power of attorney, which gives you similar legal authority for financial decisions if needed.
If they don’t have these documents prepared, now is the time to make them. And if they are prepared, make sure they’re updated and know where they are located.
5. Hire In-Home Help
Depending on your parent’s needs, you may need to hire a part-time home-care aide that can help with things like preparing meals, housekeeping, or personal care. Costs can run anywhere from $12 up to $25 per hour.
6. Utilize Technology
To help you keep tabs on your mom or dad from afar, there are various technologies that can help. For example, there are medical alert systems, video camera monitors, wearable activity trackers, and electronic pill boxes that can notify you if they have taken their medications. And to help you coordinate care with members of their care team, there are websites like LotsAHelpingHands.com.
Need More Help With Caregiving?
For more tips, call the National Institute on Aging at 800-222-2225 and order their free booklet “Long-Distance Caregiving: Twenty Questions and Answers.”
Learn how to provide home care to a family member by signing up to receive the free guide from Senior Resource! Providing Home Care to a Family Member FREE GUIDE
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Jim MillerContributing Writer
Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 300 U.S. newspapers and magazines. Jim is also a contributor to NBC’s “Today” show and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens.
Jim is frequently quoted in articles about issues affecting senior citizens and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times. In addition, he has made multiple appearances on CNBC, CNN, Retirement Living Television and national public television. Read more from Jim Miller.