Caregiving - From a Distance

October 1, 2014

We live in a mobile society. Not only are our children moving away from home for school and employment opportunities, working adults are moving to take new jobs as well. Even seniors 65 and older are increasingly mobile, with the number of seniors who have moved over the last decade increasing 65 percent. 

When those seniors experience a change in being able to care for themselves, it’s often up to the adult children living some distance away to coordinate senior care, something most adult children don't think about until faced with the dilemma. Where can their seniors live that is secure and safe?

Caregiving from a distance is difficult as decisions pose an extra challenge. You may not be on hand to address any sudden changes in their health or day-to-day needs,  additional time is needed to find available resources and more stress can be felt due to financial worries.

Challenges:

  • Assessing care needs--often difficult to determine especially if they are unable or unwilling to communicate their needs
  • Finding resources at a distance--the choices for assisted living are abundant but overwhelming in the number, variety and locations
  • Who is the primary caregiver? Time is often of the essence and deciding who is the main caregiver can be challenging especially as this person will be the one faced with much of the research and decision-making, regardless of how far away they live.
  • "Caught in the middle!" Often the long--distance caregiver is sandwiched between supporting families of their own while also caring for aging parents. 
  • New financial burden--long-distance caregivers often spend out-of-pocket on their loved ones for things such as medications, housekeeping, travel and phone expenses.

Tips for Coping:

  • Seek help--there are community organizations in the area where your parent lives. As well, online resources like eldercare.com are invaluable in finding support personnel. Often these help agencies will be advertised in churches, community centres and senior centres.
  • Family meetings are essential. Advanced preparation helps to make things go much more smoothly in the event your loved one’s situation changes.  The family needs to discuss decisions ahead of time, organize documents and paperwork before you need them, and collect necessary contact information-- friends, family, neighbours, and care providers.

Ultimately, care of an ailing parent from a distance may become just too onerous necessitating moving that parent to the caregiver's community. Then a weighty decision has to be made--"Can they bring their loved one into their home?" This is a question that needs to be assessed carefully with honest evaluation being given to the situation of both the parent and the caregiver. It is a decision that should not be fuelled by guilt.

Luckily, with the leading edge of the baby boom generation now over the age of 65, there is a large spectrum of possible care arrangements available. Unlike previous generations, we have great options for senior care.


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