When Mom and Dad live in another city or state and have a change in their health, the challenges to caregiving can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are strategies and tips that long-distance caregivers can use to help.
Learn more about taking care of aging parents from a distance.
“I don’t think many adult children think much about what to do when our parents can’t live alone any more until we are faced with the need to move them into a place that is secure and safe,” says Dana H., a member of the A Place for Mom community.
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For family members whose loved ones live far away, caregiving decisions pose an extra challenge, from additional time and stress to financial worries. “Living out of state only compounded the logistics and shortened the time frame in which to deal with my father’s relocation,” says Sharon B.
In other words, if you live in a different city or state from your aging parents, you may not be on hand to address any sudden changes in their health or day-to-day needs. Whether it’s simply gathering information about your loved one’s care needs, or coordinating senior living and medical services, caregiving from a distance involves a substantial investment of resources.
According to a MetLife/National Alliance for Caregiving report, it’s estimated that about 34 million Americans are caregivers for an older parent — and of that number, 15% live one or more hours away from the care recipient. Nearly one third of adults providing care at a distance are helping someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, reports a 2004 MetLife study. A fourth of long-distance caregivers also reported that they were the primary or only caregiver; however, in many cases a sibling or other relative provided help. Why this surge in long-distance caregiving?
There are a number of contributing factors, but what it boils down to is an overall increase in our society’s mobility — and it’s not just students moving across the country for university or working adults moving to take on a new position or career.
Even seniors 65 and older are increasingly mobile, reports MetLife:
The number of seniors who have switched states over the last decade has increased 65%.
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.
Researching and coordinating senior care is a challenge even at the best of times, but when you add in the factor of distance, there are additional issues that may crop up.
Some challenges include:
Fortunately, there are strategies long-distance caregivers can follow to make the process easier. You can — and should — schedule family meetings to discuss decisions ahead of time, organize important documents and paperwork before you need them, and gather all necessary contact information for concerned parties, including friends, family, neighbors and care providers. “Advance preparation is not usually our best suit, so we find ourselves scrambling to keep everyone happy,” Dana Holstine says. Having as much in place as possible ahead of time will make things go much more smoothly in the event your loved one’s situation changes.
In particular, seeking help from knowledgeable parties can be invaluable if you face the situation of looking for senior care at a distance: community organizations in the area where your parent lives; online resources like the Eldercare Locator; groups like the local area Agencies on Aging; professionals like elder law attorneys; and senior care referral services like A Place for Mom. Any and all of these can help you determine what kind of senior care will best fit your loved one’s needs and budget.
“A Place For Mom helped me narrow the choices by focusing on the specific area we wanted to relocate my husband’s 87-year-old aunt last summer,” Dana told us. “I felt comfortable using their advice as a starting point and quickly found a perfect place for her near to us.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help, she says, because help is out there.
What resource has been most helpful to you in caring for senior loved ones at a distance? What did you wish you’d known ahead of time? Share your tips with us in the comments below.