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Published On: Sun, Mar 15th, 2020

How to Be an Effective Long-Distance Caregiver for an Elderly Parent

How to Care for an Elderly Parent From Afar

There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being the adult child of an elderly parent. And if you live in a different city, state, or country than your parents, the long-distance nature of the relationship makes the situation even more difficult. However, regardless of location, there are still plenty of ways you can be an effective caregiver. 

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5 Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers

Approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided some type of unpaid care to an adult over the age of 50 in the last 12 months. Millions more have taken on the emotional burden of knowing that a loved one, such as a parent, is in need of long-term care.

For those who live in the same city as their aging parent, it’s feasible to provide regular and ongoing care. This might look like having a parent move in and/or scheduling regular visitations. But if you’re in a long-distance situation, it’s not so easy. 

Here are a few tips you can use to make the situation more manageable: 

  1.     Assess All Relevant Factors

Start by assessing the situation. This includes analyzing your parent’s health, preferences, financial situation, and other practical aspects.

Your first priority should always be the health and well-being of your aging parent. The second priority is their comfort and preferences. It’s easy to get these flip-flopped, which can result in poor care and improper treatment.

  1.     Choose the Right Caregiving Solution 

When it comes to caring for your aging parent, you have a variety of options. Call a family meeting and discuss which ones are practical. These may include home modifications, nursing home, adult daycare, in-home care, or assisted living. 

  1.     Set Up Proper Safeguards 

Regardless of the type of caregiver you go with, it’s imperative that you put the right safeguards in place to ensure your parent’s best interests are prioritized. (Nursing home abuse is rampant in this country and you have to be sure you’re looking out for their health, safety, and well-being.)

According to one nursing home abuse attorney, of the approximately 15,600 nursing homes in the United States, 70 percent are operated as for-profit businesses. In many cases, they trim expenses to unsafe levels just to meet specific revenue goals. In fact, up to 90 percent of all nursing homes are understaffed. 

This is why it’s important to vet nursing homes and caregivers and to continually monitor your parent’s well-being on an ongoing basis. If you notice something that doesn’t seem right, investigate further until you get the right answers.

  1.     Communicate Everything

When caregiving from a distance, communication is of the utmost importance. When in doubt, over-communicate so that nothing is assumed. This will prevent small issues from becoming major problems down the road. 

  1.     Be Okay With Change

The trickiest part about caring for an aging parent from a distance is the fact that change is inevitable. 

“Even if caregiving from a distance is going well, you can’t expect the status quo to last forever,” Kiplinger explains. “At some point, you may need to move your dad to a geriatric care facility or move him in with you. Instead of ignoring the possibility, find out your parent’s or loved one’s preferences.

Always be sure to emphasize the fact that you want what’s best for your parent. Help them understand that you’re simply helping them find a good fit. You never want to come across as being pushy and dogmatic. 

Embrace Your Responsibility

At the end of the day, it’s important that you understand the difference between concern and responsibility. There are lots of things in your life that could be considered a concern. This may include a local problem with homelessness or sweeping environmental issues. But concerns are just concerns. You can try to do something about them, but they’re ultimately outside of your control. A responsibility, on the other hand, falls directly onto your plate. It’s something that you need to deal with right away. An aging parent, regardless of proximity, falls into this latter category.

Concerns can be addressed when you have the time and resources to do so. Responsibilities must be embraced, regardless of what else is happening. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for embracing your caregiving responsibilities in spite of geographical separation. Do the right thing by putting these tips into action. 

Author: Anna Johansson

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