A few years ago I found myself flying to Florida a lot – but not for fun. I was the long-distance caregiver for two parents in their late 80s. Every few months I had to drop everything to fly south when a new emergency struck.
The worst was when Dad fell carrying an armload of lumber and had to be carried off in an ambulance. Until a sympathetic neighbor saw what was happening and helped out, Mama, with dementia, was alone, wondering what was happening.
I finally persuaded them to move in with my husband and me in Washington, DC. “We don’t need any help,” Dad proudly insisted, “but we’ll do it to make your life easier.”
In the meantime I became an expert on long-distance caregiving. If you’re the one who’s “it,” here are some suggestions to make it easier to do a good job:
— Call or visit as frequently as you can so you know what’s going on. Dad’s shuffle and Mama’s dementia were much more serious in person than over the phone or through the mail.
— Get the names and contact info of parents’ doctors, lawyer and neighbors. Have a backup plan, or what we call ‘Plan B.’ We had to rely on the neighbor to stay with Mama until I arrived hours later.
— Make sure your parent has a Will, a durable Power of Attorney (preferably naming you), a medical POA (ditto), and an advance healthcare directive. Know where these documents are kept. Ask for copies if you think your parents won’t mind.
— Other things you need to know: Medicare and other insurance info, Social Security numbers, bank and investment account numbers and locations, as well as other documents like the car title and house deed, and where these are all kept.
— Ask your parents to make a list of passwords to their email and internet accounts and keep it in an accessible place (like taped to the computer).
It may also be very helpful to engage the services of a local geriatric care manager (a social worker who specializes in finding health care and other services for seniors) with whom you can be in regular contact. She can look in on your parents once a week to be sure all is well and to let you know of issues that arise.
If you have siblings, try to keep them in the loop and as involved as possible. If anything changes, tell them right away. Share not only information — but responsibility to the extent they are willing and able to participate. They’ll feel better about it and so will you.
Beyond Dispute Associates
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.