Minding Our Elders: Helping aging parents from a distance is challengingDEAR CAROL: I live 500 miles away from my aging parents. They are starting to need some help, but they don’t want to move to be near me. My husband and I can’t quit our jobs and move back to our home town, either. How do I go about looking for help for Mom and Dad from so far away?
By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM
DEAR CAROL: I live 500 miles away from my aging parents. They are starting to need some help, but they don’t want to move to be near me. My husband and I can’t quit our jobs and move back to our home town, either. How do I go about looking for help for Mom and Dad from so far away? – Lori
DEAR LORI: One option is to look for a geriatric care manager in your parents’ community. Hiring a geriatric care manager can run into some serious money, but a care manager should be well acquainted with resources available locally for your parents. Some care managers will work directly with your parents, even managing medications. Others will provide research and oversight, but not be involved with any hands-on care.
Geriatric care management is a relatively new field. At this time there’s no control over credentials, but many people who become geriatric care managers have social work or nursing backgrounds. The website for The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers is www.caremanager.org. If you’re interested in this option, the NAPGCM website is a good place to start.
Another excellent resource for you is the Administration on Aging website at www.aoa.gov. There is significant information on the AoA site as well as a link to the Eldercare Locator. The Eldercare Locator, also accessible at www.eldercare.gov, will help you find resources by typing in your parents’ Zip code. If you prefer to talk with someone on the phone, call (800) 677-1116.
Other resources can be found on your parents’ state website. Type the name of their state into your Internet browser along with “aging.” Your search should pull up many helpful links to direct you to resources. Every state has a version of the Nation Family Caregivers Support Program, which can also be found on the state website.
If either of your parents have a disease such as diabetes or arthritis, there are disease specific websites you can locate with just a little searching on the Web. An additional website for resource questions is the Community Resource Finder at www.communityresourcefinder.org.
It’s important that your parents appoint you or someone else they trust as Power Of Attorney for financial purposes as well as health care. If this legal work hasn’t been done, you may need to visit an attorney with them.
None of these resources take the place of family members and friends. It would be nice if you could contact some of your parent’s friends to check in on your parents regularly. Also, of course, do try to see them yourself as often as possible. You can’t control everything that happens to them, but you should visit often enough to keep tabs on their general welfare, and if possible, accompany them to some medical appointments to stay aware of their medical needs. This is time you’ll never get back, Lori. You can “manage” from afar, but it takes personal touch and eye to eye contact to really connect.
Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.