Health & Wellness

Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers

Providing care and support for an aging parent who lives far away can be very difficult and stressful. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

When it comes to monitoring and caring for an aging parent from afar, you have a couple options. You can either 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 him.

Professional Help

If your parent needs a lot of help, you should consider hiring an “aging life care professional” who will give him a thorough assessment to identify his needs, and will set up and manage all aspects of his care. These professionals typically charge between $100 and $200 per hour, and are not covered by Medicare.

To find a professional in your parent’s area, ask his doctor for a referral or visit the Aging Life Care Association website at AgingLifeCare.org

Do-It-Yourself

If your dad 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 them.

Assemble a support system: 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 for occasional help. Also put together a list of reliable services you can call for household needs like lawn care, handyman services, etc.

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 Area Aging Agency near your parent – call 800-677-1116 for contact information – to find out what’s available.

Use financial aids: If your parent needs help with his financial chores, arrange for direct deposit for their income sources, and set up automatic payments for his utilities and other routine bills. You may also want to set up your dad’s online banking service, so you can pay bills and monitor their account anytime. Or, if you need help, hire a daily money manager (aadmm.com) to do it for you. They charge between $25 and $100 per hour.

Benefitscheckup.org is another excellent resource to look for financial assistance programs that may help your parent, particularly if he’s lower-income.

Hire in-home help: Depending on your their 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.

To find someone, ask for referrals through your dad’s doctor or area hospital discharge planners, or try websites like Care.com, CareLinx.com, CareFamily.com or CareSpotter.com.

Utilize technology: To help you keep tabs on your parent and manage their care from afar, there are various technologies that can help.

For example, there are motion sensors (like Silver Mother – sen.se/silvermother) and video cameras (nest.com/camera) that can help you make sure he is moving around the house normally; computerized pillboxes (medminder.com) that will notify you if they forget to take his medication; simplified computer tablets (grandpad.net) that provide important face-to-face video calls; and a variety of websites that can help you coordinate care (lotsahelpinghands.com) and medical information (reunioncare.com) with other family members.

For more tips, call the National Institute on Aging at 800-222-2225 and order its free booklet “Long-Distance Caregiving: Twenty Questions and Answers.”

Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.

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